The Best Thing I Did For My Kids’ Sibling Rivalry
“No head locks!”
I never thought I’d use this phrase as much as I do. You see, I’m a mom of two wonderful kiddos who are absolute darlings on their own but a potential nightmare when they get together. Specifically, I’ve witnessed WWF-style attacks that start with adorable sibling play and end with someone in tears. (A few times, that someone was me.)
It’s easy for me to see that these two are following a well-beaten path. My once delicate baby is now the adventurous toddler whose existence is a threat to my five-year-old son and his Legos.
Sharing toys is the ultimate challenge for them, which means it’s currently my biggest parenting struggle. Even though sibling rivalry is as old as Cain and Abel, I’m new to it as a mom. I have so many questions for God (plus every mom ever) on how to make the madness stop.
A Champion of Grace
I love what Paul writes in Ephesians when he’s addressing the divide between Jews and Gentiles. Their rivalry was epic, and Paul knew it better than anyone. Here’s what he said about it.
“For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.” Ephesians 2:14
I get the feeling that Paul can understand my parenting struggles easily. I’m amazed when I think about how he became a champion of grace to unite these two groups. As a mom, I want to break down the walls between my kids with the kind of grace I’ve received from Christ.
The Best Change was in My Own Heart
I would never put my children’s relationship solely on my shoulders, but as their mom, I have a whole lot of influence in this area. Where I’m at in my faith has a big impact on my kids.
For my oldest, I want to model grace and help him accept and learn from his failures. It’s so similar to the way Paul describes the Hebrews, who leaned toward pride. Like a firstborn, they were used to being God’s special people. They never saw the Gentiles coming.
So I try to teach my son that we parents have plenty of love to go around. I help him when he messes up, and I show him how to accept his sister even when she’s got her sights on the excavator he just built.
My youngest, in all her innocence, doesn’t always understand the benefits of obeying her parents or respecting her brother’s things. She just doesn’t have the experience yet, and it shows...usually in screams of frustration.
Bridging the gap between these two is one of the toughest challenges I’ve experienced so far as a mom. But it becomes a little simpler when I think about parenting like Paul guided the Gentiles and Hebrews.
The most effective thing I can do is to show them grace. Here’s how I try to do that:
Teach them that parents have enough love for them.
Forgive myself when I fail.
Apologize to them when I need to.
Forgive them when they fail.
Teach them to forgive each other.
Give them one-on-one attention.
Help them play nicely together.
Remind them that we’re a family.
Simply put, bearing a patient, loving attitude goes a long way.
Focus on Grace
Your kids’ relationship issues are not your fault. Sibling rivalry is so extremely common it’s cliché. And while I know this season is painful, it won’t always be this hard.
“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4:2
Remember the extraordinary love your Father has for you, and it will pour out of you that much easier when you’re in the thick of your children's’ rivalry. Patiently teach them what’s right, cover them with love and grace, and one day headlocks may not even be a problem.
Laura Emerson is a wife and stay-at-home mom who loves encouraging others and passing along grace out of her own flawed experiences. She shares light-hearted words of inspiration and real life at her blog, Fantastically Four, and is working on her first devotional. You can follow her journey in motherhood on Facebook here.
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