“Mom, Joey hit me!”… “He stole my truck” “I want him out of my room!”
Does this sound familiar? When our children fight, it’s so frustrating! I remember days when I felt more like a referee than a mom! Seriously, dealing with our kids bickering is often exhausting!
Squabbles between siblings are probably one of the top frustrations for parents of multiple children. As homeschoolers, we hope and pray that our kids will be the best of friends. That’s part of why many people choose to homeschool, because they want close family relationships. I want to encourage you that close family relationships ARE frequently one of the blessings of homeschooling. In our family, our adult children are very close. They call one another, and initiate doing things together now as adults. But when they were younger, there were some miserable times of fighting too. How could this be?
As homeschoolers our children are spending much more time together than they would if they were all going off to school somewhere. They are together all day without much of a break from one another. When you’re with someone almost 24/7, you’re bound to find things about them that irritate you, right? The good news is, rather than looking at this as a negative thing, we can look at it as a learning opportunity! Since conflict is bound to happen when you spend that much time together, we can use the conflicts that arise to work on conflict resolution skills! We can use these sometimes silly disagreements to teach our children grace, forgiveness, and how to talk about issues in a loving manner.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the conflicts that are happening among your children in your home, I have some suggestions for you:
- Pray! Pray that God will convict of sin and bring about repentance. Pray for God to work in your children’s hearts to give them a desire to please Him. Pray that your children will recognize that their sinful attitudes when they’re fighting don’t please God. Pray for restoration of any strained relationships among your children. Pray that you can control your temper and be a good example as you deal with silly fights among your children! Pray scripture for your children: Colossians 1:9-12; Ephesians 1: 16-23.
- Teach your children how to deal with conflicts in a God-honoring way:
There were two resources that I found especially helpful in teaching the kids about conflict resolution. The first one the Lord brought to help us was a book written by three homeschooled siblings called “Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends” by Sarah, Stephen and Grace Mally. The Mally children have done a great job of sharing about their lives and what they’ve learned about getting along. This book is an amazing resource. We read it out-loud together, laughing as we heard their stories. Sarah, the oldest in the family was like a mentor to our oldest daughter as we read that book. It really changed the way she treated her brothers, because Sarah Mally challenges the oldest child of the family to be the one that brings unity among the siblings. Our three boys were also challenged to treat one another better because of how the Mally siblings responded to one another in the various circumstances. All in all, I felt this book had a great impact on our children’s relationships with one another.
A couple years later God led me to another resource on conflict resolution: “The Young Peacemaker” by Corlette Sande. Using scripture, stories, role playing and cartoons, Corlette Sande teaches on what causes conflict, how to respond to it and how to prevent it. We used this book and the cartoon booklets that go with it as our family devotions each morning for several weeks. I actually learned a lot about conflict resolution myself!! She has the children memorizing verses on dealing with conflict as well. This is another book I highly recommend!
- Encourage your children to talk with one another in a respectful way and to work out their differences in a way that honors God. I know this is hard with little ones, but as they get old enough to understand God, you can remind them that they’re accountable to God for their actions. Romans 12:18 says “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Pray with them each day asking that God will help them to treat one another respectfully and kindly. As they hear this prayer, and are reminded each day that God wants them to get along, hopefully they’ll be motivated to make more of an effort. Learning to communicate in a respectful manner is a skill that your children will need all through life. Work on helping them learn this skill. If you hear disrespectful language in your children’s conversations, encourage them to try to state their thoughts again in a respectful way. Instead of “you’re so mean, give me my toy back now!” they can say “I feel frustrated when you take my toys away, please give it back and I’ll let you play with it in a little while”. Model how to have respectful conversations as you speak with your spouse and with your children. They will follow your example more than what you say!
- Teach your children that conflict starts in the heart. James 4:1-2 says “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it” Oftentimes fights arise because we selfishly don’t get what we want. A self-centered person will often be proud, and selfish, envious of what others have. Instead we want to teach our children to be God-centered, living for Him. One school year we spent a long time studying the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” I found coloring sheets related to each fruit of the Spirit, we read stories of people who lived out that fruit in their lives, and we had prizes for the child who did the best at exhibiting the fruit we were studying about each week.
- Encourage your children to think before they speak. “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” Proverbs 21:23 Often a fight can be avoided if we just take a moment to think about the consequences of what we might be going to say. Study James 3 with your children on taming the tongue. Encourage them to use their tongue wisely and think before they speak.
- Incorporate the language of forgiveness in your home. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. “ Ephesians 4:32 We all make mistakes because no one is perfect, except Christ! We need to teach our children that God wants them to be people of grace. God has forgiven us of so much. Shouldn’t we be willing to forgive others for the mistakes or unkind things they’ve done to us? God commands us to be forgiving. It’s not a recommendation, it’s a command. We’re to forgive as He forgives us. Teach your children the importance of apologizing and of offering forgiveness as well.
Pray for wisdom and seek God’s help to make your home a peaceful and enjoyable place to be! He is faithful and will give you the help you need!
I’d love to hear your ideas on other ways to help our children get along with one another – please comment if you have other thoughts!