This is another question my friend who is new to homeschooling asked: how can you motivate your kids to get along?
Sure, we can avoid a lot of the bullying and teasing that goes on at school, but we may substitute more than enough sibling squabbling to make up for it. It can be such a problem that you feel you can’t take it anymore! (Don’t ask me how I know.) Here’s where you can take it:
- Take it seriously. Sometimes our kids continue to fight physically or verbally because unlike many schools, we haven’t adopted a no tolerance policy. Let your children know that physical and verbal abuse have serious consequences in your home by promptly administering appropriate discipline.
- Take it outside. A significant amount of squabbling is simply to gain your attention. Put the brawling brothers outside, in the bathroom, or anywhere uncomfortable until they work it out so both of them are satisfied.
- Take it away. If a game or toy is the object of objection, remove it or the privilege of playing with it. Refuse to let your little attorneys approach the bench once you’ve made your decision.
- Take it to Scripture. Remind your children of what the Bible has to say about their behavior and then ask them if they are in the right. Follow up by asking what they would have to do to make it right with their brother and with God.
- Take it as training. Working on relationships with siblings is training for dealing with difficult relationships in the future. Rather than getting angry with your kids, realize that conflict resolution requires practice just like long division.
- Take it to heart. Sometimes we need to listen for the heart issues involved in conflict and discuss them with our kids. Is little brother annoying you because you ignore him? Did your sister take your iPod because you hurt her feelings?
- Take it for a time out. Sometimes things get so heated, that only a longer cooling off period will do. That goes for mom and dad, too!
- Take it with a grain of salt. Sometimes we worry excessively about our children’s conflicts and inadvertently communicate that we don’t trust our children to grow in this area. When you see your child handle misbehavior well (for example, when a pet, a toddler, or a close friend hurts her and she doesn’t react in anger), emphasize your belief in your child’s self-control.
- Take it to the Lord. God knows EXACTLY how you feel! It’s heart-breaking and exhausting to manage bickering children in addition to all our other roles. Pray for wisdom and for peace.
One of my favorite resources for addressing sibling rivalry includes excellent family devotions: Keep the Siblings, Lose the Rivalry.
Be sure to read The Solution to Sibling Rivalry and pick up your free copy of the Kind Word Covenant.