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Sibling Relationships - Issue 151
May 14, 2010
Hi there! ....

This week I talked to my children about ‘being behind’. The idea of being behind puts incredible pressure on us (and if our children think they are behind, it puts pressure on them too.) The innocent enough comment of ‘being behind’ is in essence a comparative statement and though it may help us to know standards and bench marks we tend to get tunnel vision on this issue especially if we don’t compare favourably. Before we can compare ourselves with a standard or benchmark we first of all have to:

  1. Know our goals and our direction
  2. Know that we have been diligent and responsible with the tasks in front of us
  3. Understand that everyone is different

We may not be where we want to be and we may need to apply more effort, but equally can be true that we are just walking a different path. A different path requires a different set of qualifications for success. We must remember to compare apples with apples.

So this week, if you start to feel ‘behind’ don’t just compare yourself to others, but rather compare your progress with your personal goals and direction. And remember, the only solid, unchanging standard that we need to keep in mind is the Word of God.

If you are an Australian reader I would appreciate you reading this special request.

Live life with your kids!

Sibling Relationships

One of the joys of teen children is seeing relationships change. We have always encouraged our children to be best friends and the older they get the closer this becomes to being a reality. I am not going to be naive enough to say that our children never fight but they are certainly not characterised by niggling, snarky, snide and hurting comments to each other. Instead they are characterised by talking and listening to each other, being aware of each other’s activities and interests and encouraging each other. They like spending time together.

Here are some of the principles that we have had guiding our children’s relationships with each other:

Family relationships come first: We have encouraged our children to see each other (and not others) as their best friends. This sometimes has been contested with outcries such as “But she is not my best friend!” And that may well be true, but your commitment to her needs to be as if it were true. We have taken the stand that if you can’t have a good relationship with your sibling you don’t have the opportunity to build a relationship with others. We see family as the building ground for relationships and relationship building skills. If you can’t learn the ebb and flow of relationships within a family, who loves you and believes in you regardless, then how will you do so with people who are far more fickle?

There have been times when we have had to cancel play dates because the child has not had a good attitude towards one of their siblings. It is important to note though that those hours that were put aside for a playdate outside of the home, need to be then used to build the sibling relationship. I didn’t cancel the playdate as a punishment but rather as a necessary step to give us some extra time to work on an area that needed attention – their sibling relationships.

Recognising the influence of Media: Many years ago a mum was sharing with me how her children had started to relate – or dis-relate or un-relate (if such words exist!!) They used to have a good relationship and now they didn’t. She wondered what had happened. In the course of our time together I noticed a TV show that her kids were watching and the relationships in that show were the exact things that this mother was observing in her children. She had presumed that this show was okay but she hadn’t actually watched it. The plot etc was probably fine, but the way the characters related to each other as they went on their adventure was not positive. It was these relational attitudes in the TV show that were now being mimicked in real life by these kids. How subtle this was – the media influence crept in. How easy it would be for us, even as we read this story, to say “We never watch TV” but that is missing the point. Any book or movie will have relational attitudes that your children will pickup on.

I remember when Josh and Jess were little and we were reading Blinky Bill – an Australian favourite – he was one naughty little bear (we love him, but – there was an influence and I had to counter that.)

Media has a secondary influence and one that maybe we need to watch more carefully. If we are careful and choosey about what media enters our home (that deals with the content) but what about the amount of media input? When our time is filled with media it means our time cannot be filled with other things such as relationship building time. We need to watch how much time is spent watching DVDs, blogging online, texting friends, reading books, listening to music or audio stories because while we are doing all those things, or while our children are doing all those things we cannot be spending time together and that will impact relationships.

Love is our standard: 1 Cor 13:4-8 – the love passage is fantastic for parenting – it is all there. I like the Amplified Version – it gives me so many words to work with and helps me find applications:

  • Love endures long and is patient and kind.
  • Love never is envious nor boils over with jealously,
  • Is not boastful or vainglorious,
  • Does not display itself haughtily
  • It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride)
  • It is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly.
  • Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking.
  • It is not touchy or fretful or resentful
  • It takes no account of the evil done to it (it pays no attention to a suffered wrong)
  • It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.
  • Love bears up under anything and everything that comes.
  • Is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances
  • And it endures everything (without weakening)

What a fantastic description of what a sibling relationship (or any relationship) should look like, or be as normal practice. I don’t believe we can love like that without the love of Christ in our hearts first. After all, He loved us while we were yet sinners – therefore our heart response can be to others to love them (with the love Jesus gives us) while they are still sinners. That is while our body wants to point the finger at them and say it is all their problem – our hearts will be filled with love and act differently.

Deal with it: A favourite marriage counsel verse is from Ephesians 4:26 Don't sin by letting anger control you. Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry. But this verse is for any relationship and what better place to begin than with siblings. We have taught our children from a young age to acknowledge their wrong doing, to take responsibility for the affects of their actions, to be sorry and apologise and put things right. So often putting things right simply means a hug – with that hug comes the assurance that I don’t want to intentionally hurt you again. Read more about Forgiveness. Our attitude is – regardless of how small the offense is – don’t let it fester – deal with it!

Pray for each other: The Bible tells us to pray for our enemies. Who are our enemies? Well, when our children aren’t getting along they sure act like enemies. Praying for our enemies is something that can be done while we are still at odds with each other - this is done simply out of obedience (Matt 5:44) or it is done once things are put right (but to be honest, maybe not fully healed just yet). The natural man wants to pray a prayer something along these lines: Dear God – please teach my brother to be kind so he doesn’t hurt my feelings any more. Dear God – please let my sister know how mean she is. And so forth! These are not the prayers that God wants to hear – we are to pray blessings on our enemies. Sometimes it takes time for my children to be ready to pray for their enemies and that is okay but it is something that I put out there for them to consider as they work on their heart’s responses to their sibling (regardless of whether they are in the right or the wrong.)

The other situation I encourage my children to pray for each other is when there seems to be distance between them, and yet there is no real offense. They are just not flowing as brother and sister, their hearts are not connecting. Sometimes one of them is aware of this distance, sometimes it is just something I have noticed. Praying for each other may be uncomfortable at first so I sit with them, and ask them to think of one of God’s blessings that they would like for their sibling. We find a relevant verse (if we can) and pray that verse together. If they can’t think of a blessing or a verse, I ask them if they can give thanks for their sibling. If they can’t do this then I know that there really is an issue at hand and we have to dig deeper to see what resentment, hurt, frustration is blocking their relationship.

We are all made for relationship – relationship with God and with each other. That is reflected in Jesus’ command to us – that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and love our neighbour as ourselves. The joy of it is that when our children walk with God there is a double family connection – they are family in the natural and they are a part of the family of God as well! What a joy to walk together in harmony!

Lifestyle-Homeschool Reading
Since this newsletter is about relationships you may like to read:
Bullying – the power plays in your family

Be a good listener

Live life with your Kids Blog Updates
Resources we use for teaching Worldview

Resources we use for Math

Please Note: If you are a regular reader of my blog you may notice it starting to look a bit different over the next week – Homeschoolblogger is undergoing some changes and though this won’t affect the blog posts you are looking for – it may just look different - the biggest difference will be is the patchwork background will be gone. But be assured, you will be at the right place!

Blending Life with Lessons e-book - Does your everyday life challenge your homeschool ideas? This is my journey as I discover that it is possible to disciple my children in today's busy lifestyle.

Heart Focus Parenting - A heart focused parent will keep their attention on their child's heart for God, instead of on external behaviours.

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Until next week

Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!

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