Sibling Conflict is Par for the Course (Here’s Some Help in Dealing with It)

The day almost always starts out so promising.

I make my coffee, start slow, the kids get up and play together for awhile, and I get some time in the Word. I love our mornings. But then, almost without fail, I hear the first harsh tone. And then a yell. And then I can almost feel the hearts being hardened.

I’m trying to concentrate on reading my Bible, but before I know it I shout, “Why don’t you all just beat each other up and get it over with!”

Yea, not exactly a holy response. I cringe after I say it because I know it’s just a sinful impulse and I let it fly. My son says, “We don’t want to beat each other up.” And I say, “Well your hearts do.”

Oh man, I’m blowing it. {Deep breath.}

“Lord help me.”

I go into my oldest daughter’s room and sit on the floor and begin to rub her feet. I ask her how she is feeling. She talks, I listen. I call in her brother. She tells him how she feels, he listens pretty well. He tells her how he feels. She listens pretty well. We talk, we work things through, we say we’re sorry, we forgive.Hearts are tender. They hug and move onto playing again.

This is the hard holy work that happens every day. This conflict? Par for the course. My sinful response? A constant reminder that I am in process right along with my children. We are all in process, and our hearts can only be molded and matured by Him. I can’t fix their hearts. I can’t fix my own.

But forgiveness. And grace. And new days with new mercies. This is how we get through.

Here are some things I’m learning that might be helpful to some of you out there.

Have Coffee, Take a Deep Breathe, Invite the Holy Spirit In

When I begin to feel the tension of the morning, or I feel myself getting angry, I think, “Get the coffee stat!” And then I sit, breathe, and pray. “Holy Spirit come. Be with me, with our family. Help us.”

I also tell my children to never let me begin homeschooling them until I’ve had my coffee. Seriously. They know.

When you feel like you’re going to lose it, go somewhere and breathe. If you haven’t had your coffee or your tea, get it. And pray. If you’re kids try and interrupt this time, tell them, “I’m getting my heart in order. I’ll let you know when I’m good.” If they’re younger and wouldn’t understand that, go into the bathroom. Or your closet. Or hold them close and breathe and pray. But do stop. It’s in the getting still and quiet – a quietness of soul – that you will be able to gain composure in order to keep on.

Ask Forgiveness, Give It

I’m pretty certain I ask my children to forgive me every single day. Because every single day I blow it. I remember Sally telling a story where she says she woke up one day and told her daughter Joy that she would not sin that day and Joy said, “Oh just give it up mama, it’s bound to happen!” Because WE ALL SIN. We all blow it. We all are desperately in need of Jesus.

When you lose your cool, or tell your children to beat each other up, or sigh loudly when they can’t do something, or whatever, go to them and humbly ask for forgiveness. They’ll give it. Kids are pure grace.

And when they blow it, which they will, forgive them wholeheartedly. Look in their eyes and say, “I forgive you, and I always will.”

Without the tenderness of forgiveness, hearts become hard and bitterness grows. Pay attention to the heart, yours and theirs. Work towards tenderness.

Don’t Ignore It

It is so tempting to ignore the conflict because you’re just SO SICK OF IT. I know. Lord knows. We all know. But ask the Lord for the strength to keep on dealing with it. Be in the Word. Ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom. Talk to your local girlfriends about how they deal with sibling conflict; talk to older women. Listen for wisdom and truth and grace.

“Indeed, if you call out for insight
    and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom…”

Proverbs 2:3-6

Talk issues through with your kiddos. Work it out. Listen. Don’t let it go.

Letting sibling conflict go will likely cause bitterness to grow, especially when one child has take offense to the heart.

Don’t just try to mask the conflict with good behavior or right words, but really dig into the roots. Ask the Lord for help in seeing the truth of what’s going on. Yea, sometimes you just have to say, “Work it out.” But there is a time for intervening, especially when you see hardness. I tell my children, “God gave us to each other, and relationships are hard, but they’re worth working on.”

Keep working on relationships, in love. This is great practice for their marriages!

Pray for Their Hearts

You can never fix your kids sin issues.

You can guide, teach, correct, love, forgive, and prepare the “soil” for them to believe and receive the gospel, but you can’t fix their hearts. You must pray. Pray that your children will stay tender, that the love of God would fill them so deeply and profoundly that they would follow Him forever. Pray that they would submit to the power of the Holy Spirit, because only that power can change a person; only that power can fix a heart.

Know You’re In For the Long Haul

Raising children is a good work that takes YEARS of loving, training, correcting, forgiving, over and over and over and over and over again. The prayer is that one day it will all click and your hard-fought efforts will have sunk in deep to you children’s souls.

And listen here, because this is important: even your breadcrumb efforts can make a difference if they’re all you’ve got. Some of you out there are reading this and thinking, “I’m trying but I feel so inadequate. I feel like I’m failing all the time.” Motherhood is hard, and we all blow it. But here’s what the Lord does when we ask, He multiply’s our small offerings, our fishes and loaves. We do the work the best we can with who we are and where we are, and then we pray for God to multiply our efforts. Don’t let your tiredness, your bad days, your weaknesses or the constant conflict discourage you. It’s all part of the gig. Submit it all to Him, do your best, one step at a time, and keep going.

Yes, you’re in this for the long haul, but this good work of mothering was prepared in advance by God for you to do. And He will not leave you alone in the doing.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”Ephesians 4:32

With love, SM

Sarah Mae