Welcome back to Beyond the Pew. In this final talk on relationships we are going to dive into sibling relationships and how to make sure that our homes remain places of love. Our families are supposed to be schools of love or the domestic church. I don’t know about you but I know there were many times during my childhood where my home looked more like a boxing ring or a circus than a church. That is what we are going to talk about today. In those times of conflict and brokenness, what are ways that we as parents can help our children navigate these stormy situations?
We can take this brokenness, bring healing into it, and help make their relationships stronger.
Choose to facilitate the problem rather than to fix the problem. I know the easy solution in times of fighting is to just tell your children, “Stop picking at each other. Leave one another alone. Stop fighting!” I understand that sometimes that is the first step because things can get heated and your children can need time to cool down sometimes. But if we stop there we are missing out on a beautiful opportunity to teach our children about the importance of relationships, that they are worth fighting for. We are also missing the opportunity to lead our children through an experience of reconciliation. We can take this brokenness, bring healing into it, and help make their relationships stronger. And that’s what I mean by facilitate.
Take time to talk to each of your children separately and hear them out. Get their perspective. “Hey, you seem to be really mad at your brother. Can you tell me what happened?” Or, “Hey, I saw you hit your sister. Can you tell me why you thought that was a good idea?” Help them process their behavior and emotions and get the facts straight. Then you can bring them back together and help them talk about it with one another. Again, facilitate. Don’t do the talking for them. Encourage them to say themselves what they are feeling and perceived to have happened. Now that you have heard the whole story, you can help them fill in the gaps. Help them express what they are going through.
I know things are busy, but when we choose to help them facilitate the conflict we are showing them how love is called to be patient and that relationships are worth fighting for.
With this facilitation, I think it is important to help our children recognize there is a difference in experiences. When I was little, I assumed that everyone experienced exactly what I did. If I had a good day, I expected everyone else did as well and that everyone knew I had a good day. And the reverse was also true! If I had a terrible day, everyone else knew this and should be respectful of that. But obviously, that is not going on at all. We need to help our children realize that difference!
For example. Your son had a terrible day and he comes home from school in a bad mood, he goes into the backyard by himself and starts kicking the soccer ball around. He wants to be alone. Then his little sister comes home. She had a great day, she misses her brother, and is completely unaware he is in a really bad mood. And she becomes annoying or pestering, but really she is just coming from a place of wanting to spend time with her brother. A fight erupts. Talk to them and help them realize they were coming from different places. Once you realize where they were coming from and their sides of the story, you can better facilitate. “Son, tell your sister about the day you had.” “Son, do you realize your sister just wanted to spend time with you?”
Now, that doesn’t excuse any of the behavior that just happened but you can show them how there is more to the situation. You can show them how to be merciful towards one another in this way. You can show them that other people might be going through something or suffering, and we are not always aware of it. But if we can get behind their eyes and see where they are coming from, we can be much more loving towards them. This is how we can help our kids see that their is a difference in experience going on.
God has been in the midst of others’ conflict before. They made it through, and so will we.
The last thing is like the gold star of facilitating conflict. This is bringing God into the conflict. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if while your children come back together to talk, or while you talk to them individually, you can tell them, “Hey, while you were cooling off, I was praying for both of you. I know that you love each other, but right now I know things are a little heated. So I was praying that God would be with this us in this and I’ve been praying for your relationship as siblings. When we are all back together talking, I want us to pray together too.” So we can pray with and for our children in these times of conflict.
Another thing to help bring God into these situations is to bring Scripture into it. The Psalms show the full human experience. Ask your kids to look through the Psalms and find something that talks about where they are coming from or what they are feeling. Psalm 36:3 for example says, “The words of his mouth are mischief and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely or do good.” This might be good for your children to be able to find and to state to one another. “You lied about this. You made a bad decision and it’s affecting me.” It is also a beautiful testament to the fact that God has been in the midst of conflict before. They made it through, and so will we.
And to counter that, have them find a verse of hope. Or a prayer of blessing for their sibling as they are seeking reconciliation. Psalm 19 is really beautiful for this. Verse 12 says “Clear me of hidden faults.” Wouldn’t it be beautiful at the end of this conflict you could all pray that together. Let the words from my mouth and the meditations from my heart be acceptable in your sight. Again, what a beautiful prayer to pray together and help you children choose love.
I hope this is helpful and I hope this allows you to navigate conflicts and struggles with a bit more patience and ease. Know that we at Ablaze are praying for you and your families, that you would all truly be “schools of love.” God bless!