When your children get mad at each other, what do you do? One of the most important gifts we can give them is a deep love for one another. Everyone talks about sibling rivalry, which certainly exists and can even be encouraged through a parent's actions, but what about sibling love. We can make it or break it when it comes to training the hearts of our children to truly love and value one another.
One of the first keys to training our children to love their siblings is teaching them how to resolve conflict. Conflict resolution is a learned skill. The age of your children will determine how involved you will have to be in resolving their disagreements. Obviously the younger they are the more you’ll have to teach in the beginning, but according to many studies, the less we’re involved the better.
One of the key things we did with our older children who are now 22 and 19, is start early teaching that siblings best friends for the rest of their lives. It's just a simple reminder in conversation that you can train from the time they start reasoning and engaging in relationships. Encourage them to talk about what they love about each other. Remind them they are family for the rest of their lives and family never abandons and always loves. This really worked at our house. We had very little sibling rivalry, and our son and daughter are best friends to this day. Now their example is training our younger son as he watches them and how they relate.
If you have sons and daughters, another added bonus of this teaching, is training your sons to love and protect your daughters in any given situation. Your daughters will grow to appreciate having a built in knight in shining armor. It trains our sons to be brave warriors and protectors while preparing them to be great husbands. It trains our daughters to admire the protection of a male while challenging them to choose noble husbands in their future. It also prepares them to be good wives who are willing to accept the protection of a great man. After all, we are raising the next generation of marriages.
Once your children reach the age where they begin to have their own arguments or disagreements, then you can begin teaching them how to resolve them successfully. One way to do that is to designate a particular large chair or piece of furniture as the Arguing Chair. At our house, we chose a love seat. As they began having conflict, I set aside a time to train them in how this process would work before the chaos broke out. I explained to them they would be resolving their arguments without their dad and I from now own. I reminded them that it's OK to get angry with one another because anger is a normal emotion. The key is not to sin against each other when we are angry. I explained to them in the future if they had a conflict they should let me know and then go to the Arguing Chair to work it out.
In the beginning, I would have to send them to the chair myself because they would often forget in the heat of the moment what to do. Once they got a little older, they learned to automatically go there to resolve conflict a few times on their own. Here are the rules for the Arguing Chair we used:
It only took one failed attempt at compromise at our house and they never had to go to their rooms for the hour again. They learned to quickly talk and resolve their differences. If for some reason an argument occurs during the week when there are not enough hours available to send them to their rooms before bed, move the argument resolution process to the following Saturday morning. No one wants to miss Saturday mornings stuck in their room.
The Arguing Chair did wonders at our house in training our children to respect one another, to listen to someone else's side of the story, to understand what it means to give and take, and how to resolve differences with compromise. No matter the age of your children, if they are under 18 this is a great tool to kick out the chaos and welcome in the peace.
One day they will thank you for teaching them what it truly means to love their siblings and resolve disagreements. After all, as their parents, one day we won't be here and they will be left to sort through their inheritance. When that time comes, they will be able to walk through the challenge of their grief and still find ways to love and compromise with one another because we have taught them well that every disagreement has a resolution.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18 (NIV)