I’ll add a few quick observations at the end of this article:
BLESS, DO GOOD, PRAY … 3 REMEDIES FOR SIBLING RIVALRY
by vyckie bennett
Stop that bickering now! Do not yell at your sister. It is not necessary to shriek whenever your brother looks at you! Move away from each other. Remember Bambi? “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say nothin’ at all!” If Jesus were standing in this room, would you speak to each other like that? What now?!! Just try to get along for two minutes – please!
About a year ago, the reality struck me that all my efforts to foster friendship and kindness amongst our children were in vain – their constant bickering was exasperating and made me weary to the bone. Yes, children are a blessing, but I was feeling cursed by their endless contention, lack of love and downright meanness toward one another.
Punishments were generally fruitless whether it be forcing the offenders to work together on extra chores, separating them in the hopes that they would cool down and begin afresh, loss of privileges … didn’t matter, they would be right back at each other at the first opportunity.
Modeling didn’t seem to make much difference – I try to speak kindly and treat Warren and the children respectfully and they usually are very sweet to me in return. How could they then turn around and treat each other with bitterness and cruelty the instant I would leave the room?
Bible verses – we memorized these plus many more:
It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling. Proverbs 20:3
It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house. Proverbs 25:2
Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Proverbs 26:4
In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. 1John 3:10
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:35
Surely, hiding such wisdom in their hearts would cure them of strife? Don’t bet on it. Argh! Help! What to do?!
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. James 1:5
Prayer – good idea. I earnestly sought the Lord in this matter for my children’s sake and for the sake of my own sanity. He led Warren and I to a couple of exceptional resources: Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends by Sarah, Stephen, and Grace Mally and The Young Peacemaker by Corlette Sande. We studied these books with our children during our family devotions – both are full of practical, Biblical ways to teach siblings why they should get along and how to be best friends.
We could definitely see an improvement in the children’s relationships, but the real breakthrough didn’t come until the Lord gave me this verse:
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven…(Matt. 5: 44 – 45a)
Our children were certainly treating each other like enemies. Jesus clearly tells us the remedy – bless, do good, and pray. Very simple. Here’s how we put this into practice:
Whenever one or more of the children come running to me in distress over some squabble or dispute, I instruct both parties to first of all hold hands. Okay, that’s not in the verse – I once saw two young sisters holding hands together at Walmart and it really blessed me to witness such tenderness. I’ve noticed that when my children hold hands their hearts soften and they more readily become friends.Next, I ask the offended child to explain the problem.
“She just messed up my project!”
“Is that so? Sounds like you were being persecuted. Now, what was it Jesus said we should do for those who persecute us? Retaliate? Scream like a Banshee? No, the Lord instructed us to pray for them. I’d like you to do that right now, please.” Then I close my eyes and wait expectantly for the offended one to pray for the offender. If they are very young, I will help lead them in prayer, “Dear Jesus, thank You for my sister. Help me to love her and please teach us to get along. Bless her, dear Lord and help me to show her how glad I am that You made us sisters. Amen.”
“But she said my dress is ugly and my shoes stink!”
“Did you feel like she was cursing you with those hurtful words? I’d say that definitely calls for a blessing. What can you say to encourage your sister and cheer her up?” I often will give suggestions for words of blessing, “May the Lord bless you and encourage you. I’m glad that we are sisters. I hope your project turns out really well – I’m sure it will earn a ribbon at the fair. You are being very creative and diligent on that project.”
“But now my project is messed up! Why did she have to be so mean?!”
“I don’t know … it was certainly a hateful thing to do. This is a great opportunity for you to do good! Remember that we are not to be overcome by evil, but we can overcome evil with good. Now what good thing can you do for your sister in obedience to Jesus’ command?” Depending on how severely the relationship has been strained, the good thing may be as simple as a sincere hug, or the child might offer to share a treat, do the other’s chore, etc. The more bitter and angry the offended child is, the greater service I require until I am assured that their heart has again become tender towards their sibling.
That doesn’t seem right, does it? One child messes up the other’s bedroom and the offended is asked to go clean the offender’s room for him … is that fair? Is it just? No, but it is meek and Christlike.
Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? Romans 2:4
The offended one has an opportunity to show forbearance and longsuffering. Both have an opportunity to contemplate the meaning of Christ’s suffering on the cross for their sakes. So far, in our home the offender has not failed to repent, ask forgiveness and set things right. Most often, both are soon working together and they’re giggling and whispering – the relationship is restored.
Serious offenses such as lying, intentional physical hurting, stealing, etc. still do require discipline. But the majority of my children’s battles are more along these lines: “SHE STUCK HER BARE FEET ON MY PILLOW AND NOW I CAN’T SLEEP ON IT UNTIL IT IS WASHED!!”
Of course, all of this requires my attention – I no longer say, “Just get along and be nice!” hoping and praying that they’ll somehow work things out. Not long after we began applying this remedy, we noticed the children were not nearly so quick to come running over every minor distress. We certainly haven’t attained perfect peace and tranquility, but we’re making great progress.
Recently, 5-year-old Lydia Jean let out a screech and came flying up the stairs. Big brother, Andrew had grabbed one of her toys and she was not happy! As she approached the top step, she flung up her arms, then placed her hands on her hips. “Well! I guess I’ll just have to empty his trashes for him then,” she said to no-one in particular. She proceeded to pull bags out of the cans in the kitchen, twist-tie them shut and place them by the front door. Next, she put new bags in the trash cans and then calmly went back downstairs to resume playing with Andrew who had quickly forgotten the skirmish and was glad to have Lydia’s companionship again. She didn’t even mention to him that she had done his chore – it wasn’t until later in the day that he discovered the trash bags had been changed and then he quickly thanked his sister, apologized for grabbing, hugged her and off they went again to play together kindly and peaceably.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! Psalm 133: 1
Ladies and gentlemen ~ there’s a load of crap and some seriously screwed up thinking, huh?
So now ~ the truth:
I’ve already talked about how I was thoroughly caught up in the martyr’s mentality ~ so I won’t go into it all again ~ but, wow ~ it really comes through here, doesn’t it? Ugh.
The REAL reason that my children were constantly bickering is that their father was a highly contentious man with endless energy. I mentioned in my article that I understood the importance of modeling ~ and I tried to set an example with my own respectful conversation. The problem was, for every encouraging word that I offered, Warren could (and would) go on literally for hours criticizing, analyzing, preaching and just plain wearing us all out.
PLUS ~ they never got a break from each other ~ we home schooled, home churched, no kids’ programs, no overnights at other friends’ houses (a moot point considering that the children had no friends) ~ being around anyone 24/7 is going to lead to raw nerves, hard feelings and habitual arguing.
Notice too here how abuse is rewarded ~ the offended party who came to me with a complaint was told that *they were the one* who needed to fix the situation ~ pray, speak well of the offender, do something nice for the offender ~ and maybe the offender will come around ~ if not, hey ~ at least YOU did the right thing ~ just leave it in Jesus’ hands and He’ll take care of you.