Sibling Conflict

Part 2

Brothers and sisters fighting with one another can raise the stress level (not to mention the volume level) in a home. As a parent, this can be one of the most frustrating things. Rarely do they bicker or fight about anything of value. It can feel like pointless, needless conflict that negatively alters the mood of an activity, a space, and even a whole day. As we discussed last week, these actions are a posturing and struggle for power, attention, and fulfilment of personal desire. Our kids have a broken and intense desire for supremacy and freedom to have whatever they desire. How do we lead and disciple our kids through sibling relationships and conflict?

As we have said before, our kids are battling a sinful heart that is self-focused. What they need is for us to lean in and engage them for the sake of guiding shaping, molding, and building peace rather than a show of frustration, raising the volume and intensity of our words, or sending them away. So how do we engage and disciple well? Here are four steps we can take:

1. Seek to Understand

Very practically, we need to seek to understand what is happening with the specific conflict. We know the root of the conflict, but why are they quarreling this time? What does each person want? What does each child believe they need? What is the driving force behind this conflict that caused it to happen? Is there a legitimate injustice that needs to be addressed? Knowing this will help you to practically and rightly lead them forward.

2. Point Them to Truth

There is no better place to help focus our kids’ attention than the truth of Scripture. This is where we learn about God’s design in creating us and for our relationships. We learn about sin and the brokenness that ensues. We also learn about grace, mercy, humility, and forgiveness through the life and work of Christ. Kids need this baseline of understanding. It will help them to have a framework for what is happening in their own hearts and in their conflicts. Paul instructs the Ephesians towards kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness. Why? Because that is what Jesus Christ has shown toward us. We can see His perfect example and understand that this is God’s design for our hearts and our relationships.

3. Direct Them to a Healthy Response

As we help our kids understand the real reason they are fighting (it isn’t about the toy!) and we point them toward the truth of God’s Word, we can direct them toward healthier, more God-honoring reactions. As they see a picture of Jesus’ grace, mercy, and forgiveness toward us, they can better understand the need to do the same toward one another. They will not naturally respond in this way, so it is our duty to show this to them, explain it to them, and help them to understand the goodness of it.

4. Rinse and Repeat

If only walking through a conflict with our kids once would automatically lead them to better and right responses in every situation moving forward! We need to remember that this is a journey. It will have its ups and its downs. There will be moments of fruit, and other times will bring discouragement. We must be willing to do the hard work of discipleship which means repeatedly leaning in, engaging, and instructing. This is the difficult work of shaping the heart, but it is worth it. 

Part 1

On August 20, 1866, President Andrew Johnson declared the end of the American Civil War proclaiming “that the said insurrection is at an end and that peace, order, tranquility, and civil authority now exist in and throughout the whole of the United States of America.” This marked the end to over four years of fighting, killing, and intense disagreement that saw over 3 million men fight with more than 620,000 dead. If only President Johnson’s declaration of peace, order, tranquility, and civil authority remained true. Today, our nation isn’t at war with itself through military conflict and death, but I don’t think we are able to say that Johnson’s descriptors match our reality. We may long to see a period of peace within our nation…but we also long to see a period of peace in our homes!

Sibling conflict can be exhausting. If you have multiple kids, you know exactly what I am talking about. It can feel like they fight about nothing, vehemently, and that it never ends. We long for peace, for quiet, for tranquility, and for order to be restored. Why is it that this is the status of our home? It is because our children are sinful people (and so are we!), who are living in close proximity with one another, with conflicting desires, and different expectations. When sin entered the world in the garden, it not only caused a brokenness in our relationship with God, but also in our relationships with one another. Our children, who are young, growing, and in a state of development and maturation have the depths of their hearts marred by sin and are imprisoned by selfish desire. Put two or more people like this together and you will have conflict!

It’s easy for us to get frustrated and worn down, but we must understand what is taking place. Each of our kids has different desires that often conflict with one another. This leads to a struggle for power. Each child wants to reign supreme, being able to realize their own desires being fulfilled over the desires of others. Our kids are also competing for attention. This can be the attention of parents, other siblings, or anyone else that has entered the arena. (Sometimes it feels like a battle arena, doesn’t it?) As they struggle for attention and power, they are fighting for inclusion over exclusion. They will fight verbally and physically to be the center of attention and to have their desires met. And the icing on the cake is their judgment of fairness. To be more accurate, they are more concerned with winning these battles and not encountering any disadvantage than they are about fairness for all that are involved.

That is a lot! But we can’t throw our hands up in the air, raise our voice in frustration, shout judgment and commands, or even sit back, distance ourselves, and wait for it to be over. Our kids need us. They need us to come alongside to guide, shape, mold, and bring peace…in the moment and in a lasting way to the culture. We must consider and address the heart of our children. They are battling sin that has enslaved their heart. This is even more true and more difficult for those that are outside of a personal relationship with Christ. They need our time, our attention, our instruction, and our grace. Just as Paul calls Christians to live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18), we need our homes to be shelters of peace as well.

Next, we will explore how to engage the conflict of our kids and how to disciple them toward grace, peace, and forgiveness.