If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:20, 21 ESV
“I had it first!” “He pushed me!” “I hate my brother!” “Why won’t she ever be nice to me?!” Don’t these comments make you want to pull your hair out as a parent? Do you ever think, “Why can’t my kids just get along?!”
I hear the same sad story over and over from adults who never got along with their siblings as kids and continue to have less that mediocre relationships with their siblings as adults. What we teach our kids now can affect their relationship with each other for the rest of their life!
As parents, God has given us the unique challenge to teach our children to not just get along, but to truly love their brothers and sisters. How do we pursue this daunting task? As a parent myself who has struggled with how to encourage my kids to love each other, I would like to humbly share some ideas I have gleaned from the Lord, wise friends, and teachers along the way.
1. Remind Your Children Frequently That They Are Each Other’s “Best Friends.”
The more our kids hear this truth spoken over them, the more likely the idea will sink into their hearts. Encourage them to play together and come up with creative things to do with each other. If you have a busy schedule, prioritize time that they can spend with one another. Give them ideas of how to be kind and show love to one another, such as whispering to one sibling, “I bet if you tell your brother you will play soccer with him, this will make his day!” Praise them for getting along by saying things like, “I am so glad you two are such good friends.”
2. Coach your kids on how to get along.
Some parents feel it’s best to let kids “fight it out” and learn conflict resolution on their own, but do they really know how to do this effectively when left to their own childish ways? In the same way a soccer coach teaches drills to help kids be effective on the field, our kids need to practice strategies to help them handle conflicts with their siblings.
This training can occur proactively by teaching concepts such as agreeableness, sharing, selflessness, and forgiveness during devotional times and discussing real life situations in which they may occur. Check out my character trait devotionals for resources to help!
The coaching can also occur in real life moments when your kids are in the middle of an argument. Instead of letting them “fight it out” the wrong way or raising our voices and sending them to their rooms for the umpteenth time, try replaying the scenario and asking them for a “do-over,” meaning to act out what they should have said and how they should have responded. Give them the words if they don’t know what to say. Once you have taught them character traits and coached them through scenarios of conflict, they will understand how better to resolve conflict in the moment. At this point, when they choose unkind words or actions, consequences such as loosing the privilege to play with each other may be needed to reinforce the training.
3. Teach Your Kids to Truly Forgive.
In order for our children to get along with each other, it is SO imperative that they learn to forgive each other. They need to learn to apologize for what they have done wrong, ask for forgiveness, and forgive their sibling as well. For an example of what that can look like for younger kids, click here. Your children need to understand that forgiveness does not mean that what their sibling did was okay, but it does mean giving their anger and hurt to Jesus and asking Him to help them let it go and love them anyway. This Forgiving Heart Devotional can help them learn this concept. Unforgiveness is a poison that we don’t want our children to swallow. If they don’t get it out, it can embitter them for years to come.
This summer I have prayerfully decided to focus my character training efforts on helping my kids love each other better.
I created a 6 week devotional, Loving Your Siblings, with a fun sticker chart to motivate my kids to be great friends. We have used this in the summers, and I have seen a big difference in their attitudes towards one another! I pray that God will use it to make a difference in your kids’ relationships as well!
What a blessing it will be one day as grandparents to see our adult children supporting and loving each other well and keeping a strong bond of unity among our families. Let’s do our part to make this happen!
Click here to get your copy of the Loving Your Siblings Devotional!