Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Siblings who love.

"Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it."
Proverbs 22:6

The Bible lays the basic ground rules for parenting. But the specifics aren't always apparent. I gain a lot of my parenting strategies from other Christian moms. We talk and suggest this or that worked for us. Christian radio, tv, movies, and blogs are also helpful. I learn a little here and a little there. It feels safe to take this guidance from other Bible-believing people. We all just want what is best for our kids. I can't go wrong when the advice is from a trusted source, right?

It was a few years ago and I was sitting in a Christian women’s group, excited to hear a speaker talk on “Sibling Rivalry.” My two girls are 3 years apart and so different and fought constantly. I was very eager to hear what the speaker, a Christian Psychologist with 4 children of her own, had to say that would help me find peace between my kids.

Her basic concept was that siblings will fight, it is normal and healthy. Don’t interfere unless they are causing botily harm to one another. I remember her saying, “I don’t break up fights unless there is blood.” Everyone in the audience chuckled. The children need to figure out conflict on their own because mom picking sides will hurt their feelings, she said. I also remember this quote that was immensely encouraging (at the time), “Your job as a mother isn’t to make your children be best friends, it is to help them get through childhood without killing each other.”

Whew! I could deal with that. It was such a relief to know my kids were normal. The fighting was normal. The screaming was normal. The bickering, pushing, shoving, angry looks, and hostile exchanges were all normal. I breathed a sigh of relief and continued on in the termoil. Amazingly, or not so amazingly, the outcome didn’t change in our house. There wasn’t any peace.

I still longed for children who got along. Their 3 year age difference didn't seem like a good excuse when I knew they were capable of kindness. I wondered if there was a way to teach my children to be nice and maybe, just maybe, treat one another with love. I opened my Bible and what I saw confirmed this:

"The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." 
I Timothy 1:5

"And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us...".
Ephesians 5:2

"Let your love be sincere: hate what is evil and hold fast to what is good."
Romans 12:9

"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Jesus' words!
John 15:12-13

As I was reading, this sounded nothing like "Your job is to help them get through childhood without killing each other." In fact, the above Scriptures encourage us to love like Christ. No fighting, screaming, bickering, pushing, shoving, angry looks, and hostile exchanges were described.

My growing convictions were enforced when I read my friend Grace's blog post about Sibling Love. She said just what I read in the Scripture, children can be and should be taught to love each other!

My specific parenting method had strayed far from the Biblical basics I desired. So I changed everything. I broke up my children's fights. I listened. I punished any un-loving behavior. Christ-like behavior became the goal. I highly praised kindness and encouraged generosity. Aggressive actions were not allowed at all (keep in mind I have girls I'm dealing with in this scenario, check out Bringing Up Boys for ways to handle aggression in boys).

Yes, this method is lots of work for the parents. It takes more time, but adds more peace. I'll take peace any day over the un-Christ-like turmoil of my previous strategy.

I have seen many changes in my girls. Sure they still have rivalries, but far less often. I see more kindness and more love! They love each other so much and call each other "best sisters." Helping them solve problems and talk through differences is maturing them and growing them into individuals who follow Christ. Remington is just now at 16 months adding a whole other dimension to the sibling rivalry, but he's learning too!

As for the "Christian advice" I listened to a few years ago on siblings.... I wish I would have tested it with the Bible. Her advice did not line up with the love Christ desires in our families. I was naive like Romans 16:17-18 says, "I urge you to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.... By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people."

The Bible doesn't just lay the basic ground rules for parenting -- it gives specifics too. Great advice can be gleaned from trusted Christian sources, but it will always line up with what the Bible says. We must remember to constantly check well-meant ideas with the best Source. 

Happy parenting,


The girls playing an Uno/Go Fish game with made-up rules. :)


MelinaLawson said...

Although I can't relate to parenting advice, I think this concept holds true in every area of our Christian lives. It is so easy to just accept everything an "expert" says as gospel-truth, rather than actually looking at the Gospel! A good reminder to constantly examine advice to be sure that it is in line with the source of Truth.

Sara said...

Good post, Alysun. I really, really hope to instill my children a love for each other that I never experienced for or from my siblings when I was growing up. I read your friend Grace's post as well, and like you guys both said it takes a lot of work to train your kids to love each other, but it will most definitely be worth it. That's awesome that you are already seeing the fruits of your labor with your children. I must confess that my children are far from best friends yet, but I guess they are still young and I still have some time. ;o)

Sara said...

PS) At the risk of opening a can of worms, and although I have not read Bringing Up Boys (I'm sure I will at some point now that #2 boy will be here soon), I must say that I feel like some of what is passed off as "well boys need to be boys" is also the same sort of thing you are talking about here. Just because boys are more aggressive and have more testosterone does not mean they don't need to be kind, gentle and loving toward one another. Those Bible verses apply to little boys just as much as little girls! And, just so you don't think it's because I'm a girl and don't understand, my husband (who has a brother) agrees! :) I know that I am "new" to mothering boys and that I will have much to learn, but I want to be careful not to excuse BAD behavior for BOY behavior. Does that make sense?

Andee said...

I totally agree with you, Sara. There is a fine line between aggressive PLAY and aggressive MEAN.

Grace said...

Brought me to tears Alysun! I needed this reminder again today and I am so blessed to see you seeing the fruit as well!

Sherri said...

Best sisters! Precious and beautiful!!

Kelleigh @ Kelleigh Ratzlaff Designs said...

Love this post, and I completely agree! Glad you went straight to the source!!

Related story: I heard a speaker once talk about how rebellion doesn't need to happen, disrespect isn't normal, back-talking should never come out of your kid's mouth, etc. Essentially, it was all the parents' fault for allowing that. No room for the child's free will. I left that speaker/meeting feeling SO incredibly down and horrible and guilty about myself as a mom. It was demoralizing and not at all encouraging. I sure wish I had simply gone to the Bible for my advice rather than some speaker!!