It has been a long, cold, snowy winter. We're in for another blast of cold weather this weekend. I'm so ready for spring. And so are my kids. We've spent way too much time cooped up together this winter. And it's beginning to show in our behaviors.
My girls are 22 months apart in age. It's great to have them so close together when they get along, but when they're not being friendly with each other, it's miserable.
If you have more than one kid, it's fair to expect a certain amount of griping and fighting with each other. No one gets along with another person all the time, and our kids are just beginning to learn to solve their own problems. But when that griping and fighting reaches epic proportions, it's probably time to sit down with your kids and remind them of how families act.
If you're struggling to put the lid on sibling rivalry, consider doing these five things:
1. Limit the electronics. Our kids live in an age where they spend a lot of time communicating through electronic devices. When they get so tied to electronics, they forget how to communicate in person. We have a rule that you can't use electronic devices in the car if there's someone else in the car with you. No texting someone who isn't there when there's someone to talk to right next to you. (We ease this one for long car rides but for trips around town, this is a firm rule.) We also don't allow electronics at the dinner table or when we're at a restaurant. Those are perfect opportunities for our kids to learn to converse and form relationships with the people in their own families.
2. Make time for family. Set aside some time to spend time together as a family. Have a movie night. Play games. Go for a walk. Cook a meal together. We try to do one of these things once a week. When you set aside time for family, you're telling your kids that family is important. You're letting them know that they should value each other and the relationships within the four walls of your home.
3. Set up intentional ways to encourage each other. Teach your kids to be encouragers. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up." Encouraging each other is a great way to build loving relationships in your family. If one child has a game, take the other one with you to cheer the first child on. If one child has a test, remind the other one to wish him good luck. Start a system of encouraging notes. Create mailbox or pail of some kind for each member of your family. Mount it on their doors or hang it on their doorknobs. Encourage each member of your family to leave encouraging notes in the other family member's mailboxes.
4. Work together. Create tasks that force your kids to work together. This is a great way to help your kids appreciate each others' abilities and to force them to learn to work through any issues that arise. Have one chore a week that your kids have to do together. When you're working on a big household project, get your kids working together. When they learn they can accomplish more together, it builds their relationship.
5. Pray for each other. Teach your kids to pray for their siblings. Nothing softens hearts and changes attitudes like prayer. It's almost impossible to stay angry with someone while sincerely praying for them. Create a prayer list in your house where everyone can add things they want prayed for. Encourage your kids to pray for their siblings' requests.
Our homes don't have to be filled with bickering and strife. We can teach our kids how to love and respect their siblings. It just takes some time and patience on our part.