We pulled out of the orthodontist's parking lot, and it started -- again. From the backseat came the sounds of two sisters who were doing their best to convince me that they hated each other. Nitpicking and sniping over the littlest things.
So, I did it. I pulled the car over. Despite many threats, I've never actually stopped the car before. I turned around in my seat, looked at my girls and said, "Stop it! You've been sniping at each other all day. Next person who picks on the other one is going to bed at 7 tonight. Just try me and see what happens."
Silence reigned in the backseat all the way home. I think I scared them. Maybe they thought if I pulled the car over again they would be walking home. And no one wanted to go to bed at 7 p.m.
As I drove home, I stewed. My girls are a little less than two years apart. We go through phases where they're best friends and phases where they can't breathe without annoying the other one. We happen to be in the annoying breathing stage right now.
We put a lot of time and effort into creating family bonds. We try to eat together as a family as often as possible. We encourage our girls to play together. We have a rule that unless you have another legitimate commitment, you have to be at your sister's games to cheer her on. We try to teach our girls that when no one else in the world is standing with you, your family has your back.
Yet, yesterday, my girls were the ones tearing each other down. So, as I drove, I stewed and prayed. I pulled in the garage and told everyone to sit still. Once again, I turned around. I looked at my girls and said, "Believe it or not, your sister was not put here on this earth to annoy you."
Stunned silence ensued. It was as if this thought had never occurred to them.
I looked at my younger daughter and said, "I know big sisters can be annoying sometimes because they think they know everything." Gasps of indignation rose from the other side of the seat.
Looking at my older daughter, I announced, "And younger sisters can be annoying, too, because they're always tagging along."
Then I continued, "But your sister is the only person in this world who is always going to be there. She's the one who is going to have your back when things get tough. Before we get out of this car, I want to hear five things from each of you that you like about your sister."
Silence again. After a few false starts, they got going on their lists of things they liked about their sister. By the time we got to item No. 5, they were getting into the spirit of the thing. They were smiling and enjoying the other person's list. By the time I finally let them out of the car, they had decided to do their chores then play basketball -- together. I didn't hear another criticism or frustrated tone of voice all evening.
It's important that we remind our kids why they like their siblings. When you live with someone 24/7 from birth, it's easy to lose sight of the reasons why you love them -- especially when they're annoying you. The power of positive words is hard to ignore. You can't compliment someone and stay mad at them. You can't hold anger in your heart while you're building someone else up. That's why God told us in 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."
Teaching our kids to build each other up even when they want to tear each other down teaches them to value their siblings and friends. It teaches them to appreciate one another. It teaches them how to watch each others' backs.
Never underestimate the power of a positive word to mend relationships and change attitudes in your home.