After spending the weekend at “CampGrandmaand Grandpa,” our preschool boys were attempting to “gain the floor” and regale their father with stories from their time at the farm. It didn’t take long before they were arguing and demanding equal time and attention from Daddy. Feeling trapped in the minivan and knowing he had another hour to drive with these two, he decided to teach a lesson in brotherly love. “If Jesus were here right now, what would he do?” Neither boy seemed to have any ideas, so he suggested, “I think he would say, ‘Let my brother tell you his story first.’” He let them ponder that idea for a minute before he asked, “Who would like to play a game and practice being Jesus?” The boys enthusiastically agreed to try this game.
Feeling quite proud of his strategy for eliminating the sibling squabble, Dad explained that whoever was playing the role of Jesus would let his brother tell about the weekend first. Then they would trade roles. After confirming they both understood the rules of this game, he asked, “Who wants to be Jesus first?” Our youngest son waved his arm in the air and shouted, “ME!” and our older son shared a weekend story. Turn taking continued for a couple of minutes before the coveted role of Jesus became too desirable for the little actors. Fifty-five miles from home Dad was listening to raised voices demanding, “I want to be Jesus,” “NO, I want to be Jesus” bouncing back and forth in the backseat.
“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic,
love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.”
1 Peter 3:8
Every parent who has more than one child has experienced or will experience sibling rivalry at its best. “He started it! I had it first! Don’t touch me! He’s looking at me!” The only one you might not have heard yet is, “I get to sit in the front seat!” and that’s only because they are all still strapped in car seats in the back. Whew!
Sibling issues can begin as soon as toddlers are big enough to fight back when their older brother or sister bugs them. Relationships are not easy, especially between young children who lack necessary relationship skills. Sharing and negotiating do not come naturally for preschoolers. Neither do honesty, respect, patience, and problem solving. Instead our little ones come up swinging, biting, whining, and crying when they feel hurt, angry, or inconvenienced.
As parents, we need to remind our children that their siblings are their best friends. They are going to be a part of each other’s lives for the long haul. When we pray at night with our little ones, we should help them lift up their siblings in prayer. Look for opportunities for your children to serve one another. If you are piling in the minivan to run errands, ask the older preschooler to help buckle the younger child. At naptime, when the middle child has lost his precious sleeping companion, encourage all the children to join the search party. Ask the children to help each other with chores, like putting clean socks away and setting the table. At our house we even have “Team Tiede” cheers that we use to celebrate each other’s achievements, which also help promote positive sibling relationships.
When the inevitable happens and you have bickering, step in to teach good communication and problem solving skills. Sometimes you may have to role play how one child tells his sister that it “Makes me mad when you take my toy,” instead of scratching her face. In other situations you may model for your child how to read the “whines” of his younger brother and walk away from a situation. At times, it is most effective to separate the squabblers completely. My favorite technique, and my children’s least favorite (which is the reason this is so successful), is to implement a “Hug Fest.” I turn over our traditional three-minute sand egg timer on the table. Then the siblings stand next to the table and are instructed to gently “hug” until the timer ends. Most of the time this consequence ends in giggles and the offense is forgotten.
Teaching our children to love each other and get along is critical if they are to “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, with one heart and mouth.” (Romans 15:5-6.)
And so I pray…
In Jesus’ Name I pray these things, giving you glory and honor forever, Father! I love my children, and I know they love each other too. Please show me how to encourage __________ in his relationship with his sibling(s). I admit sometimes my first reaction is to step in and stop the fight or raise my own voice louder than those of the children. Help me be a good model of respect and communication for __________. I pray he will learn to live at peace with his sibling(s). Give him the integrity to walk away from situations even if it doesn’t mean “winning.” Help __________ “be devoted to his sibling(s) in brotherly love. Honoring them above himself.” (Romans 12:10.) Amen.
*Taken from my book, Parenting on Your Knees
Parenting on Your Knees: Prayers and Practical Guidance for the Preschool Years
Strap on your sense of humor and don some knee pads as you prepare to be equipped for/by Parenting on Your Knees: Prayers and Practical Guidance for the Preschool Years. Vicki Tiede provides parents of preschoolers tools and strategies for parenting and praying when sleep and alone time are at a minimum. You will find hope and encouragement to nurture and pray for your child’s character, behavior, social skills, development, and spiritual growth.
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