I am a peacemaker.
It’s my nature. I long for peace and for everyone to like each other. To get along. I guess it’s just the way I’m made.
But then I became a mother.
And to my great surprise, our children don’t always get along. In fact, they’re shockingly prone to bicker, argue, and quarrel. Gasp.
So my peacemaking skills have really been put to the test. Pushed to the limit. And at times gone over the edge.
What can a parent do about everyday picking and jabbing? Arguing and scrapping? How do you teach your children the basic skill of getting along?
Quite honestly, I wish there was a “formula” because I think I’d follow it. But we’re talking about hearts here, not merely behavior. So it’s not quite that simple. But here are a handful of creative ways we teach our children how to get along with one another.
Second-Chance-It. The moment the bickering gets going, step in and stop everything. Whoever is involved gets the chance to try it over again. Time for an instant replay – only this time the communication should be loving and kind.
For instance: “I’m sorry, brother, but could you please put this glass away for me?”
“Oh, yes, sister, I’d be happy to do that for you.”
Often the siblings find this exchange rather hilarious, but that’s alright. At least we’re smiling now. And, who knows? It might even become more natural as we practice it.
Sweetening Up. Sometimes the content is fine; it’s the tone that’s the problem. The rude snarl is what provokes more than the actual words spoken. So correct with,”Could you let her know, son, that it’s your turn now….but without the snarky voice?”
There was nothing wrong with reminding his sister about it being his turn; it was the demanding, ugly voice that went with it. A sweet spirit can go a long way in reducing conflict.
Serving Each Other. When two children don’t get along, the impulse is to separate them. But it might be better – not easier, but better – to give them further opportunities to be close together.
So we’ll team up the two quarreling ones to wash the dishes together. Or tackle the mess in the garage. We’ve even gone so far as to appoint two sisters to share a room – until they learned to get along (and, yes, it worked). The idea is to put them in a situation where they can grow together.
Seeking to Bless. A big part of bickering? Is because we’re looking after our own interests and not those of others. So we encourage our children to consider their siblings above themselves.
Instead of “I want the blue cup!” How about, “Which cup would you like to have, Little Sister”?
Rather than, “I get to sit up front!” How about, “Where would you like to sit, Big Brother”?
Such gestures might not be a first response, but they can learn and discover the joy – yes, joy! – it is to bless others. (More on Encouraging a Heart to Serve here).
Simplifying. Here’s my one little “secret” to bicker-management: Don’t give it a chance to grow. An argument can quickly turn into such a tangled mess that it’s impossible to know where to begin. Identify the “core issue” if you can, but sorting out every angle and accusation is not always required. Simply identify the underlying selfishness (Does it truly matter who started it, if both sinned?). Then all involved should repent, seek forgiveness, and carry on in love.
Let’s learn to love one another (I John 4:7).
In His grace,
Lisa Jacobson, Club31Women