THE SHARING RULE

THE SHARING RULE

When I had four kids under 4, including twins, the one area that drove me nuts was sharing. The constant need to referee who had what toy and someone else crying over it was a full-time job! I remember thinking there was no way I would survive 18 years of this. God gave me a great solution which we named the ‘2-minute rule’. Anytime someone wanted something you had, you ONLY had two responses, “Yes!” and be a joyful giver on the spot, or you could say, “In 2 minutes,” which taught the other person to be patient. It was a win/win situation. No need for tears because they were empowered with how to handle the situation. When conflict broke out, I would go back and help guide them back to the two options, and peace would resume. To this day, I am able to reap the fruit of this because their character had a chance to grow in the midst of conflict.

What is something in your house causing chaos? Ask Holy Spirit to give you a creative way to equip your children to handle the situation and aid in their character development.

TAKE BACK GROUND IN OUR FAMILIES

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. 

NOT SO SWEET

Is anyone noticing an increase of bickering, cranky kids, and sharp tones in their family? I know I have, and let’s call it out – it is ANNOYING! There is nothing more grinding to my ears than listening to my children use unkind tones with each other over trivial things. As I was exploring what was going on in my family, I remembered ALL of the sugar they had been consuming. Normally I let them enjoy their Halloween candy for a day or so and then collect it all, but I had forgotten to do that. I told them to get their candy, and I was mortified when I saw the massive pile of SUGAR sitting on my counter, waiting to be consumed. Yeah, NO. This will not go well to allow them to have a steady drip of this much sugar. We are mind, body, and spirit, and we cannot feed our bodies poison and expect to produce sweet results any more than feasting our eyes on violence and expecting peace. Or allowing our ears to consume gossip and slander and expect connection. In one day of removing the sugar, I noticed a massive shift in kindness, care, and gentle words!

LAYING THE FOUNDATION

FIRST – When an issue comes up, you must ask yourself, “Have I taught, trained, and equipped them in this area?” That means, have you proactively taught them how to handle disappointments, the difference between right and wrong, how to handle when someone else wants your toy, or how to respond when someone is being unloving before the conflict? These things require intentional parenting in times of peace. This is where you get to cuddle, connect, go on dates, have family meetings, etc. You get to fill up their love tanks by connecting through intentional teaching with Mom and Dad. Much of the early toddler years are spent doing this very thing – some days without ceasing! It is the heart that says, “Hey, son/daughter, I have something to show (or teach) you.”

SECOND – Look for opportunities in real life to apply the thing you are trying to teach. This is where the training part comes in. You practice, practice, practice with real-life situations. Will a 2-year-old master self-control in the first week? Nope! You will be an intentional parent for 18 years and will need to teach and train them in the area of self-control in every stage of their life. Perhaps with a 2-year-old, your training subject will not be getting the toy they desire. When they are 10, it will be about completing their homework each night, and perhaps when they are 18, it will be having self-control with the opposite sex. These character traits should be something we build upon as they get older.

THIRD – You now have a foundation upon which you can build. Say you have already laid the first and second part of the foundation in the area of self-control. Now, when you take them to a meeting where they need to sit quietly, you can pull out that teaching and training to prepare them for what you expect from them. You can begin role-playing in certain situations. I would often park the van at the grocery store parking lot to do a quick family huddle about what was expected and how we could proactively use the skills I had just taught them. Here’s what it would sound like: “Hey guys, who wants dinner tonight? Okay, we are going to go into the grocery store for food, not toys. Hudson, will you get the door for us? Lauren, do you want to push the cart? Emma, will you be my big helper and put the food in the cart for me?” I am now leaning into the skills that I have taught them and cashing in on them. I am building us all up for a successful shopping trip. We are all doing our part while we are connected and creating fun family memories versus an unfruitful and frustrating experience for all.

LAST – When a foundation has been established, THEN you can add discipline, such as time-outs, consequences, removing privileges, etc. Can you see how confusing it would be to a child when parents keep disciplining them for the ‘NO’ behaviors but never spend time teaching them what IS acceptable? You could say it looks like this:

  • An issue arises that you want to see a change in (every family will be different on this).
  • Proactively teach during times of peace, using it as a connecting time to get to their heart. 
  • Now coach them by role-playing that issue in real-life situations. 
  • Look for opportunities where they can proactively apply that skill.
  • Discipline is now appropriate if the child chooses not to use the training you have established for them. 

Here’s another real-life example: Let’s say you are shopping, and your kids are touching everything, running crazy, and having a meltdown for a new toy. You have a few options. You can: #1. Conclude your children aren’t old enough for an outing to the store, and thus put the burden on yourself to either pay for a sitter or go late after they are in bed. #2. Get mad, yell, scream, and then feel awful! OR #3. Teach and train your children what it looks like to have self-control at the store. I heard a story of a mom who was so fed up with her grocery trips that she sat her kids down and explained to them what was required. Then every single day for an entire week, they would go to the store, not to buy anything, just to walk up and down the aisles so the kids could practice! That mom is now reaping the tasty fruit of grocery shopping in peace. Oh, did you hear that? What was the Kingdom of God again? Righteousness, peace, and joy! What is a specific area you need to intentionally go after in teaching and training your child?

WIN THEM OVER

Character matters because it matters to heaven. The Word is loaded with commands on the way we should be conducting ourselves, and children need opportunities to grow in self-control, discipline, and character.

Years ago, we were traveling as a family and arrived at our hotel late but had a super early am flight. Within minutes, our hotel room was trashed; stuff everywhere, covers all over the place, trash on the floor, towels all over, etc. I called the kids in and asked how we would feel if we walked into our hotel room like that. Would we want to stay here? Not really! I told them that the housekeeping staff is paid to make it look nice for the next person. It’s their job. No matter how big of a mess we make, they have to clean it. I then asked them, “But is that what we WANT to do?” Do we want to be known as yet one more dirty, messy room, or do we want to be known for the mysterious family that blessed her socks off when she opened yet one more room to clean? Since that defining moment in our family, at every hotel we have stayed at, the kids have gathered the trash in one spot and piled dirty towels together, they ask Jesus what He wants to say to the maids and place notes with $1 bills around the room for her. It isn’t always about our ‘rights’ but about having the character to lay down our rights in order to be a blessing to others. This was a defining moment in our family, deciding who we wanted to be as a unit. In order to be who we are called to be, we had to reject the norm and march to our own drum. Every family has an identity. Ask yourself: “What matters to me? How do I want people to experience us? What is the greatest way we can impact the world around us as a family? What will we stand for?”

SYSTEM UPGRADES

As a mom of four, I had my grocery trips down to a science. I had my toddler in the front, my baby in the carrier of the cart, and my four-year-old twins holding onto each side of the cart. There was peace and joy when we went to the store. Until the day they all outgrew their places, and they were running around playing tag while I attempted to shop. I rationalized that they were fine because they were being joyful, but the joy broke out into the next aisle, where they zoomed up and down the rows of food. Finally, they rounded the corner and nearly plowed over an elderly lady with a walker! I realized my previous system was no longer effective. I had to go home and call another family meeting where I taught them what going to the store looked like in this new stage. This is the process of building them with age-appropriate character throughout their childhood years.

LOOKING BACK

I want you to look back for a moment. Do you have siblings? How was your connection with them as a child? Were you taught to respect and love each other? Were strife, conflict, and physical violence tolerated? Did you feel like you belonged? Were you accepted? What things did your parents do that cultivated your relationship with them? Looking back, what things do you wish your parents would have done to help with your relationships with your siblings? This is important because you are deciding what things you want to keep in your generational line and what things you want to change. Siblings matter because they are part of God’s plan for family. God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit are ONE, yet they all have different characteristics to them. Such as, my son is one human, but he is a son, brother, and friend. He relates differently as a son than he does as a friend. Family is so dear to God because the earthly family mimics the nature of Himself, Jesus, and Holy Spirit. Our earthly father is where we get our sense of identity (who we are), being provided for, and protection, which is a reflection of the character of God, our Provider, and Father. Our earthly mother is whom we get our comfort, nurture, and learn about life from, which is a reflection of the character of Holy Spirit, our Helper, Teacher, and Comforter. It is through siblings that we get our sense of BELONGING, which is a reflection of the character of Jesus, our Companion, and Friend. When siblings are not taught, trained, and expected to get along, it affects their deep sense of belonging in the world. There is great insecurity inside of them when those closest to them are allowed to reject them. The fact that there is conflict isn’t the issue (and is not a reflection of you being a bad parent). The conflict in itself is actually quite normal. Children have flesh that is selfish and self-seeking. Part of parenting is equipping our children with the tools to GROW. The conflict isn’t a reflection of anything ‘wrong’ but rather highlighting areas in which you, the parent, have some work to do to teach and equip them.

FULLY AND COMPLETELY

When I would tell the four kids to do something, they would obey right away, but only partially. So, I would call them back, and they would obey right away again, but still not finish. I was asking them FOUR times to complete the dishwasher, FIVE times to clean the bathroom all the way, THREE times for the floor, and I was about to go mad! I realized it was an issue of taking responsibility, so I asked Holy Spirit for a creative teaching tool. Ha! Do you know one of the names of Holy Spirit? TEACHER! He rocks at teaching the kids and loves to do it in a fun way. I called all the kids back and gave them a piece of paper to wad up. I then told them they had to put the paper in the bathroom (the furthest room from the living room). They were all like, “Okay, easy peasy.” Then I said, “But… you can only drop it, stoop down to get it, stand up, drop it again, stoop down to get it, stand up, drop it…” It was super funny about four times, but after that, they wanted to cry. They were clueless about why they were doing this; it was NOT fun. I called them all back into the living room and explained that that is how I feel when I ask them to do something and then have to call them back again and again to finish it. When they are instructed to do something, they must stick with it until it is done fully and completely.

CLASSIC LOVE LANGUAGE MISUNDERSTANDING

My son deeply needs to connect with his family. It is beautiful yet developing the skills can be messy at times. I was away on a ministry trip while he stayed at a friend’s house for the weekend. I reminded the girls he would need to reconnect upon returning, and they eagerly created plans to connect. About an hour later, I got a text saying he walked away and didn’t want to play anymore. I called to check in with him and asked if he felt like the girls were connecting with him, and he said, “NO!” Upon inquiring with the girls, they recited that they grabbed his favorite meal, ate together, and played games. In other words, they gave him a gift and quality time. I asked them what his language was, and they both realized immediately that it was words of affirmation. I asked if they affirmed him with their words, and they realized they labored so hard to connect at that moment, but through their language, not his. This is a classic example of people’s hearts in the right place, wanting to intentionally love someone else but missing the boat because they are speaking the wrong language.

SIBLINGS’ LOVE TANKS

Your child needs to know not only their own language but their siblings’. When a child is aware of their needs, it makes it a lot easier for them to get their need met in a healthy way. Say their language is quality time, and yet they haven’t invested any time in their family; they are going to feel disconnected. Love tanks aren’t something to just passively let others fill. We can intentionally put ourselves on the path to be filled up. They can be doing things that encourage their needs to be met. Many times when there is conflict in my home, it is because their tanks are low with each other. While it would be so much easier to just separate the two ‘offending siblings,’ what they REALLY need is connection. When I see this is an issue, I will ask the child what their brother’s love language is and ask what she can do to fill it and vice versa. The older they get, the more I solve sibling issues this way than anything else. Disconnected kids act out like kids starving for attention!