Is it normal for your kids to fight, disagree or not get along? Sure, moments like these happen in every family, including mine. And, often at embarrassing moments! No mom wants her kids to fight, but it seems many families assume it is part of normal family life. Somehow we excuse it and passively watch as our kids hurt one another and build better relationships outside the home than in the home. Not only is this sad to observe as a mother; it is a missed opportunity!
When our kids were young, we made an intentional decision to not let them act this way as a general practice; allowing for that “off” day when they were just prickly or grumpy. Hey, we all have bad day! We set a rule in place, believing that sibling relationships needed to be nurtured and fostered, not just endured. God has given each of us unique families as preparation for life, ministry and work. Rather than teach kids how to work through it and reconcile with their brother or sister, many parents just send their kids off in different directions, distract them or use the famous “time out”. By the way, I never used this “tool” because I figured if my kids had energy to fight, I could use their energy for chores! Why send them off to their room if they like it?
So here’s how our rule worked: We let our kids know that if they were mean to their brother or sister, treating them in a way they would never treat a friend, then they would not get to see friends and they would have to serve that sibling in some way. Serving could be doing their chore, cleaning their room or an appropriate action for the situation. We then instructed them to ask forgiveness and receive forgiveness from their sibling. Once forgiven, all was forgotten and they were both free to enjoy one another. If your kids are too young for friends, use another person they care about and a consequence such as no special movie, dessert or favorite toy for a time.
Too good to be true? No, it really works. I have five strong kids with different interests, personalities and behavior styles and they get along great. As we imposed this family rule, it worked to protect their hearts and minds from hurts that break relationship and wound deep. How many of you remember things your siblings said or did that affected your view of yourself? Words have power and we are changed by them. The Bible tells us throughout the book of James that words have the power of life and death.
As a mother I experience great joy when I see my family united and enjoying each other. You will too, but this will not happen without your consistent, positive intervention. Stop hoping and wishing, and start intentionally creating an environment of love, respect and life-giving words. It is never too late to do this and you will be amazed at the outcome.