I think my girls have been home more than they have gone to school in January. Between Christmas break, snow days, Martin Luther King day and sick days, we've spent a lot of time at home. The weather has been cold and wet, which means we've spent much of that time cooped up in the house together.
Now, I don't know what happens in your house when your kids spend a lot of time together inside, but in my house, those days generally deteriorate into my children saying things to each other that aren't very nice. Sometimes, gasp, the situation becomes so charged that they will hit or shove one another.
Sibling bickering is a part of most families. Having to share anything with another person goes against our naturally selfish natures. It's not natural for us to want to think about someone else before we think about ourselves. When we think only of ourselves, it's easy to say something we don't really mean or to lash out at someone else when things don't go our way. When your young and your brain has yet to develop all the brakes for impulse control, it's even easier.
The constant bickering can drive parents nuts. Too often, we simply react by separating our kids or offering up punishment without explanation. I know that my first reaction is to make my girls go sit in separate rooms. While that's a valid response and stops the immediate problem, it doesn't help my girls learn to get along or learn to think before they speak.
If you are caught in the throes of sibling bickering, try some of these ideas.
- Have your kids memorize Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." When you hear them saying something that doesn't fit the instruction in this verse, have them repeat the verse to you. Then ask them if they think what they just said fits with the directions in the verse.
- Cut out some lips from construction paper. Give each child a set of lips and a Band-Aid. Tell them that when they want to say something mean to their sibling, they should go stick the Band-Aid on the construction paper lips as a reminder not to say mean and hurtful things.
- Talk about putting others first. Read Philippians 2:3-4, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." Talk about how when we get caught up in what we want, instead of putting others first, we can hurt other people with our words.
- Give your children a task to do together on a regular basis. Forcing them to work together gives them opportunities to work out their differences. It also lets them see that the other sibling can be a help to them.
If your kids are anything like mine, you'll have plenty of opportunity to work on stopping the bickering during the cold, snowy days of winter. Remember to hold onto your own frustration and help your kids take the focus off their own wants and put their focus on the needs of others.