I heard a mom say, “Without sibling conflict, our family would be so peaceful. It is the main area that seems to bring such chaos.” What about your home? How is the peace level? Siblings are God’s built-in training ground for teaching children how to walk in the fruit of the Spirit so that they can be successful adults.
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!
We were enjoying a day at the swimming pool. Hudson asked for a sip of my pop, and I felt led to lavish him with the whole thing. Lauren came over and robbed him of his joy by being bossy, controlling, and ‘self-focused.’ I decided to treat the girls to one, too (it is a treat and not something I usually do). I gave it to Lauren to share, but she was being mean-spirited and controlling about it with her sisters, too. I called her over and pointed it out to her. She was frustrated with herself for being like that but didn’t know why. We asked Jesus to shine His flashlight in her heart and show us what was going on. She began to cry and say that the other girls would move away from her whenever she joined them. Bingo! Hurts, lies, offense. She was hurt and offended that her sisters were working on a skit together and were not including her. I explained that she was partnering with control and meanness to make herself feel better and listening to the lie that she couldn’t be weak and show tears (something she struggles with) and that in doing so, she was releasing the wrong kingdom. I asked if that was what she wanted (because she does have a free will, and I would rather parent with her will than try to control her against it). She didn’t want that and agreed to let her sisters know how she felt. She learned that it is safe in God’s Kingdom to show tears and weaknesses, which she revealed to her sisters. I declared over them that they were powerful and incredible world-changers who could devise a plan to resolve the conflict and then left them to figure it out, and the joy returned! Can you see how spanking, time outs, removing the treat, etc., would not have even come close to addressing the real issue of her hurt heart?
Once past the elementary years, a great parenting tool has been to simply partner with Holy Spirit to see how the discomfort can be placed on the child, not me. A child will step up to the plate when they feel the pressure and discomfort of their choices. When my kids transitioned from homeschool to formal school, I showered them with grace as they were learning so many new things involving lockers, tests, new classroom rules, eating lunch in a certain time frame, and so on. Months into it, I still found myself asking in the morning, “Did you brush your teeth? Did you make your bed? Did you…?” My mind was going to explode as I tried not only to get myself ready and out the door but to remember who did and didn’t do what! I sat on the kitchen counter lamenting to Holy Spirit that I felt like I was going to lose it. The kids came down only to confirm they had not done what was expected, and back up they went. I stayed on the counter, trying to keep my cool. This continued for nearly 20 minutes. We finally got in the car, when I calmly said, “Thanks for choosing to get all of your stuff done this morning. Great job. I just want you to know that the bell rang 20 minutes ago.” They begged me with tears not to make them go to school late, but I had to be tough to let them feel the discomfort of their choices. Upon entering the school office, I was asked the purpose of the tardy. I simply said, “My kids were learning to take responsibility this morning.” The office clerk winked at me and told the kids it would be unexcused and handed them their slips to enter their classrooms… late. Guess how many times they failed to do their morning routine after that?
**Toddlers need the training established so that you can use tools like this down the road. I would not attempt to do this with a toddler who is still learning right/wrong.
When my four children were toddlers, I scored big with a large trash bag full of Beanie Babies. While they brought so much joy and fun, it often ended with tears. I began watching them interact. The girls would line up their favorites, giving them great affection. Hudson would have his in a big pile and would grab one making it pounce on each and every one the girls had so perfectly lined up. They would cry. Beanie Babies were put on the shelf for a while because this same scene always played out. I began to realize that neither party did something ‘wrong’, but that boys and girls play differently. It was not about finding out who was the offending party but teaching them how to interact with their differences. By God’s design, girls and boys are different, play differently, and respond differently. I have told the kids countless times that, yep, it might not be easy to figure out how to interact with a brother/sister but that it was their training ground for future relationships, their spouses, future children, etc. Someone doesn’t have to be ‘wrong’ in order for God to teach us through their differences.
Fearing we will harm our children if we cause their discomfort can actually harm them more!
I know this post will shock a few of you, but I will say it anyway. WE WANT TO BREAK OUR CHILD’S WILL! Our parenting style should not reflect breaking a child’s spirit, but we should be breaking their will. Breaking one’s spirit uses tools like anger, intimidation, control, fear, dominance, rage, and projecting our wounded places onto our children. This screams at the child that who they are is not okay and teaches them they have to alter their true selves to please them and keep the peace. We have all experienced and used these tools on others. We know it by the bad fruit it produces and how it makes our hearts feel. Breaking one’s will is totally different and uses tools like empowerment, authority, discipline, being firm, encouragement, consequences, and allowing others to feel uncomfortable. This communicates to the child that they are believed in and called to a higher standard of living. It teaches them that you love and care about them enough not to leave them in their current state. It champions them into becoming all God has called them to be and gives them room to increase their capacity. I do not want to shut my child down and break their spirit. But I DO want to break their will.
I encourage you not to see the following verses through the lens of disciplining harshly but rather through the eyes of a loving Shepherd that uses His rod to train, correct, and guide his sheep to keep them safe.
“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (Proverbs 13:24).
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:12).
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, walk along the road, lie down, and get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
“A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother” (Proverbs 29:15).
“Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire” (Proverbs 29:17).
“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck” (Proverbs 1:8-9).
**Do not see the word ‘rod’ as spanking or beating a child. The rod was used by a shepherd to pull in, correct, and guide their sheep. It was also used to ward off predators. The rod in this concept is loving, kind and shepherding.
The word ‘break’ is not as in beating down and destroying but in training and discipline like an athlete.
Have you taught your children about love? We can’t expect what we do not first teach in times of peace. I love what this mom shares in our class. Have each family member take the online quiz, print out the results, and spend time talking about what each one looks like.
“It was so helpful for our family to discuss and identify together each other’s love languages. I’m excited to see how God will use this understanding of how we individually receive love to grow our relationships with one another!! I want to be intentional about daily having this awareness of filling my children’s love tanks in a way that speaks to them.”
I am all about empowering children, as my ministry is based on equipping parents on how to empower their children. However, I do not believe in empowering them BEFORE the child has first learned to submit. If you are empowering your young child by offering them a choice with everything you are teaching them, they are the master of their own world, which ultimately is not entirely true. Yes, they alone control themselves, but that doesn’t mean they are not accountable to an authority greater than themselves. Some things need to be submitted to, such as our relationship with God, our desires, Holy Spirit’s leading, stop signs, not playing in the street, harming another human, moral compass, relationships, righteousness, and so forth. We may be free to do as we choose, but that does not mean we want to raise children who are only motivated to respond when they are in control. I see parents of little ones so eager to empower their children. Yet, they are missing out on the required seasons of laying the foundation of character training and intentionally teaching children to submit to their authority. This is raising children who are defiant and full of entitlement.
Let me share an example: My daughter, who is a naturally born confident leader, went to babysit for a family. She returned and declared she would never do that again because the kids never listened to her. I encouraged another attempt. She again came through the door and stated the same thing. Not so eager to let her miss this golden opportunity to grow in her capacity to lead, I made her do it one more time. But this time, she came through the door and was most upset. I honestly could not figure out what was happening because this was a wonderful family. Shortly after, the mom asked me for a playdate, and we met at the park. Her toddler made a mess, and she asked, “Do you want a spanking now or a time out when we get home?” Instantly, I knew the problem my daughter was facing. When we got home, I asked her if she gave the kids a choice of when to go to bed. I asked if she gave them a choice of PJs. If she empowered them to decide if they wanted to brush their teeth or read their book first. My daughter was frustrated and said, “No, I just did what the mom told me to do with them, and they wouldn’t listen to a single thing I said.”
The problem was that she didn’t offer them choices, and the only way the child knew how to respond to authority was if they were in complete control of the option. This only works if, everywhere they go, people offer them choices to feel powerful, but that is not how the world is set up. Ultimately this is not true empowerment; this is entitlement. It is overwhelming to a small child who doesn’t even have the total brain capacity to always be in the driver’s seat. They are not orphans, but children set in families with parents who make healthy choices on their behalf.
A child must endure some training at home that establishes authority and how to surrender their will by trusting those God has given to care for them. The toddler years are when this is established and skipping this season and jumping right to empowerment will reap the fruit that will give parents a run for their money down the road. The definition of empowering means to give (someone) the authority or power to do something. If you give children something they do not know how to use properly, it is like giving a baby food before they know how to chew or a car before they know how to drive. We set our children up for messy accidents when we empower them before they are ready.
Do I believe in giving children space to make choices? YES! Do I believe in doing it before they have been first taught to trust your leadership? Not at all. Perhaps we can move away from the ‘do as I say’ control-based parenting and yet not swing so far to the other side where we skip some of the crucial character development that comes with being able to carry the weight of being truly empowered.
I passionately believe siblings are God’s built-in training ground to raise up successful adults who know how to deal with people, love those who are different and reap the fruit of deep connection and community.
I have an above-average sensitivity to whining. It grates on me deeply. I taught my children from the toddler years that if they whine, they lose. I even typed it up and framed it on the wall in our kitchen on their level (along with other house rules). I first taught them in the time of peace what I did want from them, and we role-played what whiny and peaceful words looked like. Then the first time they whined to get their way, I got on their level and said, “When you are ready to use your big girl words, let me know,” and I would walk away. It took a matter of seconds before they came chasing me and changed their tone. Whining is a lack of self-control and orphan. I want my children to speak to me with confidence and self-control. I laid the foundation, and this was something that brought a lot of peace in our homes.