A little while ago, USA Today published an opinion piece titled “Your kids’ constant fighting driving you nuts?” in which Dr. Ruth Peters explained the five perfectly normal reasons why your children fight with each other. Maybe your kids are just bored and a little fight will break up the day! Or possibly they have formed a habit of relating to each other by arguing. Maybe they’re just plain ‘ole mean! It doesn’t matter to Dr. Ruth, it’s perfectly normal.
American culture loves to tell us that while sibling fighting is undesirable, it’s just a normal part of the process of growing up. It’s something all families must deal with. In one sense, that is correct. If you have a bunch of kids in your home, then you’d just added more sinners under your roof! No family (that I know of) escapes sibling bickering. This doesn’t mean that we have to live with it, however.
Normal to America is often counter to what God’s plan is for our families. Take a look at this verse:
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
What is the difference between a true friend and a brother? While a friend will love you at all times, it is our brother (read: siblings) that is born for adversity. When the truly hard times come it is our brothers and sisters that were born to be there for us. I know that even if I drift apart from my siblings due to geographical distance, or other reasons, no matter how distant the relationship, we will always be there for each other in the hardest of times. At least that’s how it should be. That is one of the reasons that a brother (or sister) was born for!
How different this is from what the world says is a “normal” sibling relationship!
If this is what God wants us to be for our siblings, we shouldn’t decide as parents that it is normal for our kids to fight. We need to encourage them to be best friends while they are young so that they can be there for each other throughout life. That’s God’s plan.
I bet Joseph in the book of Genesis was wondering why he got stuck being “blessed” with his brothers when they sold him as a slave after nearly killing him in a pit one day. Yet despite all of that, it was Joseph who wept tears of joy when he was finally reunited with his family in the end. The bonds between brothers and sisters are so great, that even his brothers who plotted to kill him, still brought Joseph joy when he saw them. How much better could this have been had they not been at each other’s throats in their youth?
As parents, we can play a role in making the bonds between brothers and sisters a source of strength for their future success. Two are better than one, we learn in Ecclesiastes, because if one falls the other can help them up, and a three-fold cord is not quickly broken. As you raise your kids, you can choose to view that process as a rope building exercise. Don’t raise them in isolation, constantly separating the bickering children from each other. Choose to be a catalyst of the bonds of friendship in your kids.
So what should you do?
Stop treating fighting as normal
If American culture says something is normal, you should probably just do the opposite as a rule of thumb! Debt is normal, nudity is normal, and so are fighting kids. Don’t think like that. If your children are constantly fighting, it’s time to take stock of the situation and address it just like any other behavioral issue. If you can change your thinking on just this one point, you’re already well ahead of the average parent.
It’s so easy to allow small things to slowly creep up into big problems, but confronting your children on this issue when they are young will reap dividends as they get older and grow closer instead of further apart. This is true with most parenting issues, but especially on this one.
You have to go against the grain a little
As a parent, it’s time to be assertive on this one. Don’t just be satisfied with the lack of fighting, but rather require your children to play nicely with each other. It may be awkward at first, especially if there is a difference in age. You might get some really stilted and forced conversation. You may even have to directly supervise encounters, but this is necessary to complete the cycle. If your kids aren’t fighting, but are always isolated from each other, you still have more work to do.
Your older kids will need to learn to include the younger. This isn’t just for the purpose of having your children be friends. This is also a wonderful learning tool for your children in how to deal with people in life who are not at the same level socially. I’m reminded of the following quote:
“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” – Malcolm S. Forbes.
When your older children learn to be kind and loving even to those who cannot reciprocate like they’d want, you’ve won a victory not just for your children, but also for all those whom that child will interact with in the future.
As we conclude here, I hope you will decide to take a moment and consider the state of your kids’ relationships? Are they fighting all the time? Are they polite, but isolated? Decide today that as their parent you will do them a wonderful favor in life, but taking the time to help them create self-less bonds that will serve them well in life.