We were at the pool one day, and Hudson sneaked up behind Emma, who was sitting by the edge, not wanting to get wet. He motioned to me if he could throw her in. I responded, “You can, but will it help your connection with her?” He took a second to realize the joy of the victory would not be worth the splash it would make in their connection. I have taught my children over and over and over that the way they treat each other today will affect tomorrow. It may feel ‘good’ to be powerful today, but tomorrow you will reap the fruit of a low account with them.
IS IT WORTH IT?
We each have a language of love that we speak and understand. It is vital we understand not only our own language but those around us. Love causes offenses to roll off our backs. Love pulls in during conflict. Love empowers others to become their fullest self. Love protects. Love is safe. Love is contagious. We can teach our children to know their language and how to intentionally put themselves in the path to get their tanks filled. Have you taken the quiz to discover your language? Has your family taken it too?
I went on a date with my son, and he broke down and told me how unkind Lauren had been to him all over the dog. We got home, and I asked her about it, and she didn’t express much care about it. The following morning, we talked about it again as a family, but her response was cool and casual as if to communicate she had no intention of changing (insert trigger moment for Mom when siblings are unkind to each other). She came to me a couple of times throughout the day and said she would ‘try harder,’ but this wasn’t about behavior management, as this issue has been there on some level since the day we got Boo. I told her she needed to fight harder for her freedom and that I was there to help, but she had to own it. By that evening, she asked if we could talk. She said she was upset with Hudson. About what? That he would do something that would harm the dog. I asked what she was afraid would happen if Boo was hurt. She said, “That he would be put down.” I assured her that would not be pleasant, but the reality is she will outlive the dog, and at some point, she will have to say goodbye. She agreed. I asked if she was feeling more compassion for Boo being in pain, that she had to let go of him or that she would have to deal with the aftermath of missing him every day, and with that, a burst of emotions came flooding over her. She was not afraid of losing him; she was afraid of longing for him. Instantly my mind recalled how she processed when she lost her dad. She was angry for a while and then just came to accept it. What I failed to realize at the time was that she was stewarding an unmet longing for him. She, like many people, despised the feeling of longing for something that you can’t have, and there was a part of her heart that jumped in to protect her from feeling that ever again. She wasn’t controlling Hudson. She was trying to protect herself from having to feel the longing for something you want and desire but can’t have. As her mom, I get a lump in my throat even writing that. She has gotten into a lot of conflict over the years for her ‘controlling’ behavior over her siblings with the dog, yet all along, she was scared of losing him like she did her dad. She was able to repent for her attempt to control and manage Hudson’s actions. She asked Jesus to forgive her for trying to do His job of protecting her heart and Boo’s life. She had a greater revelation that it is God and God alone who holds Boo’s life in His hands, and He already has Boo’s life figured out from beginning to end. I asked her if she could have faith that God also cares about Hudson and that He didn’t want Hudson to do something to Boo that would cause him to be put down and the profound way that would affect his relationship with Lauren. That God is protective over leading Hudson too. She began to cry and said she had never thought of that and suddenly felt compassion for him. Hudson isn’t the enemy here – her fear is.
Thank You, Jesus, that You parent our hearts and see what is really going inside of us. She didn’t need a consequence for her unkind behavior. She needed an encounter with a Father who has never left or forsaken her, who sees and hears her heart and cares deeply about what she holds dear. Okay, I might be crying myself after sharing that testimony of you.
Whip up a batch of cookies as an after-school snack and sit with them, talking about their day for an extended period of time. Go deeper than the “How was your day?” You are giving them the gift of being seen and heard.
Get moving – nothing stirs up our natural endorphins like exercise. Pick them up from school, play some family basketball, kick the ball around, or play tag. Join the fun and play with them. You are giving them the gift of play which is critical for a child’s brain.
Joy – Find a pocket of joy today (simply doing something that ignites great joy). Jump on the bed, dance in the rain, have a wrestling match or tickle attack, or cook together. Joy increases the chemical in the brain to endure hard things. You are giving them the gift of hope.
Speak truth over them – remind them of who they are. Call out their identity. “You are my favorite,” “You are passionately loved and fiercely wanted,” “You are unique and special,” “You bring me joy.” You are giving them the gift of being valued.
Which one will you do today (for their heart and yours)?
“We all already were familiar with the love languages, so we focused on what each language actually LOOKED like to us. I realized that there were things that I thought were filling but weren’t, as well as things I had done that DID fulfill someone, but they never told me, so I didn’t even know! My husband and I decided that we needed to go deeper and really try to understand each other! I bought four glass jars with lids at the Dollar Tree, and each of us got one jar and chose a color to represent him or her. I cut pieces of construction paper in the chosen colors and then color-coded the lids and wrote our names. So how this works: If I do something to contribute to my husband’s love tank, he will put my color paper in his jar and let me know what it was that I did. This way, we are aware of what means something to someone else and what doesn’t. We wanted to do something visual that would make us more aware and help us learn each other better. So far, this is bringing so much awareness to each other and making us dig a little deeper to find out what works for someone. I thought my older ones would think it was childish, but they didn’t. I even got my grown 33-year-old son (who just moved back to Alabama and is temporarily staying with us) involved with it. I was expecting some eye-rolling, but they all are on board!”
Is sibling conflict breaking out in your home? It did in our house, and I AM SO GLAD! I am keeping our days moving by having a balance of rest, school, and movement. I got two of them settled on a project and took another for a brisk walk with the dog. While coming back inside the house, I could FEEL strife and knew there was conflict. My daughter came to me sobbing, telling me how she was mean to her sister and pushed her. Her tears were massive, and she was fully repentant, confessing her wrongdoings. I told her she was indeed wrong and that a consequence was appropriate, but that life was pretty hard these days, and I wanted her to spend an hour in her room alone processing and giving her heart a voice to herself. She is my easy-going, always smiling, glass-is-half-full child, and her heart needed to get real – life IS challenging right now. I moved to the other child involved, who flashed this massive smile across her face as I approached her. She did not know that I knew about the conflict. I asked how she was doing, and she said, “Great.” I said, “Really? How can you be doing great if your sister just pushed you?” and she burst into tears. I instructed her too to go into her room and spend an hour giving her heart a voice. She not only lied to me but herself. I went to her after a bit, and she began to unpack how her sister doesn’t like her and has been rude and disrespectful to her for days and that her heart was hurting. I went back to the offending child and asked what was going on, and she, too, broke down, telling of pains and hurts that have been piling up between them.
The sense of belonging is something we all crave. It was given by God to Adam and Eve but lost when they exited Eden. God gives us families who know us intimately and provide a safe place where we can grow and learn. When that safety or trust is broken – physically or emotionally – it affects our core need to belong. Sibling relationships are where children get their greatest sense of belonging, so guarding this connection is important. When there is a conflict between two siblings, the enemy whispers, “You do not belong,” and a child who believes they do not belong will act like they do not belong. Explain this and ask if they have ever felt like they didn’t belong. Share a story from when you were a child and felt that way.
In the days ahead, when you hear siblings being rough and unkind to each other lovingly, go to them and ask them, “Are you communicating to your family that they belong?” “How can you speak to them in a way that assures them they matter?” I often say to my children, “You can express yourself in a way that doesn’t make them feel like they don’t belong.”
A mom shared how her girls were at it all day. Cranky, mean, and unkind words. She had them soak in God’s presence and taught them that their hearts are like a sponge. We spend time with Jesus so we can drip His love on others. Later they brought out their journals, and the sister had so much to say about her younger sister to encourage and lift her up. No person feels good when there is sibling conflict, and sometimes we need an extra dose of Jesus to help move us from bickering back to kindness.
Jesus, fill our hearts to overflowing so that we may love each other the way You intended.
Parenting these kiddos can be a mixed bag. They care deeply not so much about what is being said but HOW it is said. They can get their hearts hurt easily by tones and harshness. Yet they come alive and are rejuvenated by words alone. I am convinced God gave us children with this wiring so that the rest of the family can learn how to walk in love, even when they are upset and frustrated. As a parent, I have had to grow and anchor myself to Proverbs 31:26 – “When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule for everything she says.” This has also been a great training ground for the other children in learning how to tone their speech. I have learned to be sensitive to how my son is responding. If I sense a wall is being built and he is isolating himself, it is generally because he got his heart hurt. It generally just takes a “Who do you need to forgive?” and the offense is revealed. This is also my child who beams ear to ear with a kind word, verbally noticing his effort, calling out the good, and telling others about him in front of him.
I will be honest with you and say that two of my children’s love languages are easy for me; I speak their language with ease and fluency. Yet two of them have unnatural languages, even a little annoying to me at times. I started learning more about love languages when I became a single mom, and I assure you the LAST, the very last thing this mama wanted to do was to be childlike and play a game to get that quality time in. Ugh! It was almost painful for me to speak their language of quality time, especially since I was already with them 24/7, non-stop. But my children mattered to me, and God has entrusted me to steward them well. I was learning to lay ME down to fill THEM up. I am a good representative of A SIDE of Jesus, but Jesus has many sides, and my children allow me to become more like Him and walk in greater love as I let their NEEDS grow me into being more like Jesus. John 15:13-14 (TPT) – “For the greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. And this great love is demonstrated when a person sacrifices his life for his friends.”
The Word says if you have EVERYTHING (money, fame, status, awards, a big house, a perfect-looking family, IG followers, Pinterest-worthy snacks, A+ students, fancy cars, leadership titles, etc.), but have no love, you have NOTHING! Love matters because God designed our heart, mind, and soul to need it. I have seen the messiest of situations, exasperated parents, and the most challenging children MELT with the ointment of love.