TRAINING GROUND

TRAINING GROUND

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.

YOU BELONG

 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.”

BROCCOLI BAR

My daughter was having a tough time with her brother thinking it was funny to put his toe right up against the doorway to her room. He never went in but was taunting her, and she was biting the bait. She came to me exasperated. Holy Spirit had me teach her that he was getting a thrill out of her reaction. He doesn’t care about going into her room; he loves the rise it is causing her. It is making him feel powerful (of course, none of this was appropriate on his end), but this is an annoying thing about people kids must learn to overcome. I told her that every time she freaks out, it was like she was giving him chocolate. Of course, he would want more. But when we take the ‘fun’ out of our reaction, it is like handing him a candy bar made of broccoli. Ah, no thanks! I encouraged her to go up and ignore him, blow it off, and soon enough, it won’t be fun for him anymore. She invited him in, and then he ran away. He never wanted to enter; he wanted to bug her! When my kids find themselves in that situation again, I simply say, “Give them a broccoli bar.”

This lesson was taken from our Character Counts SOAR parenting magazine. If you are interested in more activities, you can purchase your digital copy here: Character Training SOAR Magazine – Let the Children Fly

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.

HOUSEHOLD RULES

I want you to ponder your children and the way they interact and speak to each other. What does it look like? What do you tolerate? What don’t you tolerate? What are the stated household rules for getting along? What consequences can be expected when they don’t? I am not asking for what you hope for; I am asking what the current reality of your household is. Are your children allowed to hit their siblings? Are they allowed to slam doors? Say, “I hate you”? Are they allowed to pick their friends over their family? Every family has its own rhythm, and no two families will flow alike. Every family will have a different set of core values and different standards which they are governed by. As parents, it is important to be able to see the vision you have for your family. If you don’t know what you are aiming for, you will parent inconsistently, which will produce inconsistent and frustrating results for the whole family.

For me, growing up, there was freedom to hurt and hate each other, which affected me greatly. When I started having my own children, I drew a line in the sand and was determined to teach them that we would be a family that communicated belonging and acceptance. True change doesn’t come from just outward performance; it comes from within. Instead of giving you a list of tools to use to whip your children into shape and force them to love each other (which, by the way, never works), I want to help you come into alignment in your heart first. It is out of that place where real change happens. Spend time pondering and processing this with the Lord. Ask Him to shine His flashlight into your heart (Psalms 139:23) and show you how He sees and feels about the way the siblings treat each other. Oftentimes there is a pang of great guilt for parents because they WANT their children to get along more but simply don’t know how. Confess that to the Lord – that perhaps you have allowed (for whatever reason) your children to be unkind to each. Allow Him to speak to your heart. I am going to provide you with some questions to ponder with Him. I encourage you to get a journal and write down whatever you heard or see Him saying to you. If He is really the head of your household, then give Him room to speak into this situation.

“Father God, would You please show me what makes You happy when you see family?”

“Jesus, would You be willing to reveal to me what in our family needs to come into alignment?”

“Holy Spirit, what does my child really need from me when there is conflict?”

“Father, what area do You want me to focus on with my children?”

“Jesus, if You were here today in the flesh, how would You handle my children?” (You may be surprised by the answer).

God is a perfect Father and knows how to lead your family into greater peace. Holy Spirit is your Helper, and there is nothing but hope ahead to have the family you have dreamed about. Let the Children Fly!

FIGHTING SIBLINGS

This may surprise you, but not getting along, striving to be first, seeking their own way, being demanding, and focusing all on themselves is NORMAL for every child. It is called living in a fallen world. As Christians, we believe in harnessing our natural fleshly desires and learning to partner with the character qualities of heaven, such as power, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (James 4:1-10 & Galatians 5:17). 

TRAINING GROUND

Sibling conflict is God’s training ground. Use it for their good.

GOD USES ANYTHING

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.

SPEAKING SIBLINGS’ LOVE LANGUAGES

How else is your child going to learn how to relate to their future spouse, boss, or friends unless they are taught? The day-to-day issues between siblings are your God-given training ground to equip them. The conflict can be used for good when you see it as an area in which they need help growing in. Most children do not have an issue with feeding or dressing themselves because you have done a great job at teaching them how to do it. You assisted them, gave them lots of grace, coached them, and encouraged them, and now they (and you) are bearing good fruit in these areas. The same goes for character training between siblings. How many of us have heard about the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman? Have you ever considered how a child feels when their tank is overflowing? Or running on fumes? This tool alone will radically change the temperature in your home. Show the kids what a magnet is and talk about the force that it carries. They won’t be able to see it with their eyes, but it’s there. Then show them how a magnet works. When you put the two right ‘loving’ sides together, there is a PULL for more. But when you put the wrong ‘unloving’ sides together, they push apart.

In the days to come, when there is conflict, lovingly approach them with your magnets in hand and explain that they are releasing something that causes others to want to pull away from them. Is that what they really want? Show them that they can flip the situation by choosing love to draw them in rather than push them away. Have each child take their own online quiz. Print out the summary and then call a family meeting to share how each person needs their tank filled. This isn’t a one-time teaching but rather a lifestyle that is cultivated by sowing into it daily. You can also sign up for their weekly newsletter, which will provide you with simple creative ways to speak each language each week. 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.

My two children who have the most conflict is the one who has the language of words and the one who is a strong leader. The way she often speaks hurts his heart, and then he reacts. As annoying as this is at times, it is most excellent that one can learn to guard his heart and not give his peace away so quickly, and the other one, who will lead many, gets to learn how to do it in love. 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 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 sibling’s love language is (if they honestly don’t know, you have more teaching to do). Then I ask, “What have you done to love them in the past 24 hours?” The answer is generally “nothing.” So, if the real issue was their lack of connection, I would help walk them through ways they could reconnect based on their love languages. The older they get, the more I solve sibling issues this way than anything else. Disconnected kids act out in ways that create connection, even if it is unhealthy. The child bullying or trying to get a reaction out of their siblings is most likely crying out for connection but doesn’t know how. I am equipping my children to change the world around them, and the issues between their siblings are my training ground to shape them into dynamic humans who know how to walk in love, honor, and respect because they have been TAUGHT.

The Love Language™ Quiz (5lovelanguages.com)