I remember myself as a feeble and weak soul, barely 13 years old, when that evil monster came chasing me down the hallway with a butcher knife. I could feel the heat of her presence pressing against me like the walls were caving in. “I’m going to call mom,” I threatened, half knowing it would make no difference. “Ha,” she hissed back “make sure you tell her what a brat you are.”
I won’t lie, she was probably right. I surely did something to create such wrath that my sister would come chasing me with a butcher knife. Not that my behavior made it right for her to do such a thing. Nonetheless, it does make a good story to tell.
Even as an adult, I proclaim her knife sins to the world. But it always reminds me of the bond we really had. Sure there were knife-chasing moments, but most of our moments were spent laughing, playing, and watching tv together. I remember the knife-days, but I mostly remember that my sister was always there for me.
We needed each other. Mom worked a lot and life was hard for us. We relied on each other for strength, support, and comfort. At age 38 and 35, we still do. We still talk often and still rely on each other for help and support. When I think back on how we got to this place, it’s easy to see the intentional ways that mom encouraged us to have a strong relationship.
Yes, she applied many of the principles that I shared earlier this week in practical ways to STOP rivalry. But she also did many things to help us avoid that conflict altogether. She always wanted us to have a strong relationship.
How to encourage a strong sibling relationship
1. Build family unity with shared activities
In our family, we do this by having a family fun night. It’s one night that we spend together no matter what. This night of fun has helped us rebuild our family from one of life’s most destructive trials. And it helps us grow closer to one another. This bond is something we need in order to encourage each other and support each other through daily life. But it’s also what we need to help us have the grace and mercy we need for each other when conflict arises.
2. Supervise and use teachable moments
I probably don’t need to tell you that there will be a lot less fighting if you supervise your children closely and make sure they are engaged in meaningful activities. There’s nothing like a rainy summer day to create chaos in your home. The schedule is important and mom’s involvement matters.
But there is also that precious teachable moment to consider here. If we are active in the daily lives of our kids, it gives us the opportunity to intervene when a situation is close to becoming out-of-hand. It gives us that teachable moment to say, “Wait a minute, do you think your tone was kind? And if your tone wasn’t kind, can you see how it might lead to a physical conflict with your brother?” These opportunities are precious. Use them to point out a better way to handle the situation before it even becomes one!
3. Be in a constant state of building others up
As you go about your day, constantly find ways to build up your children. AND encourage their siblings to join in. For example, you might say, “Wow Travis, the kitchen is spotless. You did an excellent job on your chore today. Didn’t he, Kelly?” But be careful not to make it a contest. Always pick something that the other person isn’t involved in. If Kelly was also cleaning the kitchen that day, this would be the WORST thing you could say. You would actually be pitting the two against each other.
Do it with physical appearance, personality, work ethic…anything you can come up with. This creates a sense of self-worth for the child being praised and also shows the others that you value that child. Just remember to praise all of your children equally. Don’t favor the one who always seems to have it together. They probably need the least amount of encouragement anyway!
4. Attend sporting events and other activities to support siblings
Have you ever been at an event and watched the siblings play video games on the sidelines? Please forgive me for any potential offense, but this infuriates me. I know that events can be long and little ones might need some distracting, but most children can be involved in supporting their siblings. Save the video games for practices or another time. Get involved as a family in cheering for your child or congratulating them on the hard work they put into this activity.
5. Teach them how to be a godly sibling
Of course the only way to do this is to use God’s Word. It’s so vital that we not only teach our children what God says about a particular topic, but that we show them in His Word. As they get older, we need to be helping them to make decisions and judgements based on what God has to say about the situation. We should be modeling that now.
What does God’s Word say about being a sibling? Well, I asked myself that a few months ago when I thought I might tie all of my children together on a bench until they got along. (No need to call CPS, I promise I didn’t do it.) But I sure felt frustrated. My home is just like yours. There are days when the things that I am teaching play like a beautiful symphony in our hearts, and then others when you would think I had just let the kids fend for themselves from birth.
You know the day. It’s when you ask yourself if you truly are getting anything into their heads. It’s that day when you “sound like a broken record” you are certain no one has ever even listened to. As I mentioned earlier this week, siblings are going to continue to fight and squabble because this side of heaven, we will never be free of our own selfish behaviors.
All the best tricks and parenting books can not solve this one. The only way to truly change it is to truly change our kids. And the only way to truly change our kids is through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
So I knew we needed a new Bible study. One that would point them to God’s truth about how they were supposed to view their siblings, how they were supposed to behave as a sibling, and how to handle the inevitable conflicts. I knew that they needed to study this for themselves and write down answers as they thought through what God was really calling them to do.
I am so excited to introduce you to that study—>Meet My Brother’s Keeper. It’s a 4-week in-depth Bible study on the subject of sibling relationships. We will walk through the Bible to discover God’s meaning and purpose for siblings and families. We will explore the stories of 10 different siblings from the Bible, some with beautiful stories and some with ugly ones.
The study is broken up into two levels. The Junior level is written for ages 5-8. The Youth version is written for ages 8-14. (Of course, mom is always best at placing her child in the right level. Ages are just a guideline.) If you have children in both levels, the study is designed to coincide, making it easy to use as a family devotion. For more info on that click here.
Are you excited? I pray that this study will truly bless your family and grow your children spiritually beyond what you can even imagine. I’m praying with you, trusting God for that right this minute!
I’m so excited about the release of this new product that I’m offering a great price for the first 10 days! Until 3/23, enjoy a super low introductory price that blows the regular price out of the water. But hurry, it won’t last forever!