Sometimes blog entries are written because God drops something in my lap. This is one of those times, because I received the following emails within weeks of each other.
I have a 2 year old girl and an almost 5 year old boy. Lately, they have been at each other's throats. Some
of this stems from the fact that in the past, the two-year-old just did whatever the older sibling expected.
Now, she knows how to push his buttons! I was just thinking today, "Wow! I only have two. How does
Kendra get all her crew to get along?"
So, I guess my question is, what are ways that you promote harmony in your home? I would welcome any
ideas and suggestions. I truly appreciate the effort you put into your blog. It has been so helpful to me.
And from Dana:
Do your kids ever go through a stage of arguing/bickering? That's eating at me right now. Praying fervently.
I know Lauren and Dana are not alone with this. Raise your hand if you can relate. Yep, that's what I thought. Me, too. Daily.
Recently Lisa and I were discussing the unkind words our children exchange with one another. She told me she's been addressing the offending parties with the following question, "Were you being as kind as possible?" That tends to get to the heart of everything, and I find that the answer is usually, "No", from all parties involved.
From there we can move on to addressing other attitudes and wrong actions, and then set to work apologizing and working to solve the problem, like perhaps making all guilty parties work at cleaning up the mess together (or whatever the issue was).
But we are also extremely proactive, or at least we try to be. From the day each baby is born, we tell the children that they are best friends. We watch for outside relationships that might take a child's heart away from his siblings, and we even put the kibosh on friendships that have developed that take precedence over sibling relationships when they are very young. If they are being kinder to a friend than to a sibling, we take a serious hiatus from the friendship.
We also do a lot together. School, reading aloud, projects, family movie night... Our desire is that our home be a place that is so exciting, so fun, and so attractive to our children that they won't be looking around for someplace else to be those things to them. Or worse, looking around for friends to validate and love them because they have ample validation, love, and acceptance from their parents and siblings. Their identity is in Christ, not friends or even us.
And we do observe a daily quiet hour in which no one is allowed to be near anyone else. We all take a book or two and find a couch, bed, hammock, or floor where no one else is. At the end of the time alone, we are usually refreshed and ready to enter into life together again.
I have asked adults I know who have healthy, dynamic relationships with their siblings and parents what their years growing up were like. Were they always best friends? Did they squabble a lot? What did their parents do to foster a close bond between them all? Many have answered that no, they weren't always as close as they are now, yes they did argue, and yes, their parents regularly communicated that they were going to be best friends. Their parents also put family above their own friendships and worked hard to make their family circle very close.
Sometimes when I feel I am growing weary of refereeing squabbles, I try to envision our lives in 10 to 20 years. I like to see a barn filled with our adult kids, their spouses, their children, and close friends. Thanksgivings, Christmases, and summer bashes have the potential of being riotously fun, but those things don't just happen on their own. Left to our selfishness, we would be a family marked by strife, irritation, and solitude. By the grace of God, we are working diligently on our personal areas of sin and on not allowing those sins to consume us or our friendships with each other.
And our greatest goal is that our family brings glory to God!
P.S. Check out the book Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends.