Monday, May 18, 2015

Sibling Rivalry—Part 2

by Betty Jackson

Jesus is the Prince of Peace

There is no substitute for the Bible to educate the consciences of our children in how they are to treat others. Failing to teach our children what God wants in our homes, by neglecting the Scriptures, or by failing to live it, is a woeful error. Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6).  We are to be a peaceable people (Matt. 5:9; Rom.12:18; Heb.12:14). Yet, we need to realize that the disposition of putting others before oneself is a learned behavior (cf. Phil. 2:1-4).  We surely will never master this virtue perfectly

By design babies are self-centered for survival. Gradually, with deliberate effort during formative years a child can be properly led to have concern for his fellows. Children who learn early in life to think of others, to have a servant's heart, will be more apt to become God's servant. 

Parents need to be examples of self-control, courtesy, and mercy. Parents who are more concerned with training, than control, will not be unnecessarily harsh. Anger and power will be effective only as long as parents are bigger and stronger. Parents who are always mad and mean when they discipline (or in their disagreements with one another) are teaching the false idea that might makes right. Parents who crave complete control of their children may be creating in their children a lust for power, or the opposite—rebellion to throw off overbearing control. How can we be recipients of the Lord's long-suffering, mercy and goodness, yet fail to extend tender mercy and patience toward our children? A wonderful passage of scripture for parents to think about is Lamentations 3:22-23:

"It is of Jehovah's loving-kindnesses that we are not consumed because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness."

Children should be encouraged, taught, and allowed to work things out on their own. Don't encourage tattling by responding as an umpire for every incident. Lay some ground rules for settling differences.These rules are not necessarily laid out by preaching a long list, but are learned from what is acceptable and explained as needed. Make suggestions for how they might compromise with each other. When necessary, separate children with some "time out" for thinking about resolutions.

When children are embroiled in an ugly disagreement, understand that you usually cannot find out who the innocent party may be—likely there is none! However, if you know that one child is consistently criticizing or bullying another, the situation needs to be remedied by age appropriate, strong and consistent disciplinary measures. Bullying can come in various styles. Hitting or tattling, criticizing, taunting, loud crying to get one's way, pretending to be innocent—can be methods of a little power-thirsty child!

 It Is Never Right To Do Wrong

Fussing that escalates into verbal abuse or blows must be stopped. Simply do not allow it, regardless of who started it. It is wrong, period. Self-control must be taught. Angry screaming and hitting is not right. It must be corrected even if the screamer has been the victim of selfishness or bullying. Do not allow wrong behavior. Disagreeing is not wrong. But differences must be settled by cooperation, or in agreement to disagree, and not by who is the loudest, meanest, or who cries the most!  

Name calling, hitting, biting, etc. need to be corrected the same way you would discipline any other behavior that you are trying to eliminate. Children who are allowed to use their fists, hateful words or pouting to solve their problems or to get their way may grow up into belligerent, manipulative or mean adults. Rules of behavior need to be understood. Both positive and negative re-enforcement have their places in teaching children to live peaceably with one another. In extreme cases, that may include a good old-fashioned, biblical spanking (Prov. 13:24; 22:15; 23:13; 29:15,17). Though this is an unacceptable method of discipline in many circles today, it is an effective and right tool. We admit that many parents who practice corporal punishment do not know how to use it effectively. It should be an "event," used with careful measure, for deliberate rebelliousness or repetitive disobedience, and not as an outburst of parental anger.  

Teach children to genuinely apologize to one another. When you have violated principles of right conduct with your spouse before them, let them hear you apologize. When you treat your child badly, apologize and make it right. But do not be over-indulgent just because you have been too harsh. They will learn to be more sincere as their consciences mature, and they witness your sincerity over your own poor behaviors. At first, this may be foreign to them, but habitually expecting each family member to become sorry for wrong actions will reap great rewards, eventually. Never be prideful, refusing to correct your own wrong-doings.

Be sure that you are giving enough attention to your children. It seems that when parents are sidetracked with other responsibilities, war breaks out! If other tasks are unavoidably demanding attention, give them something to do (nap, work, reading, well chosen media. etc.) before trouble begins. Spend individual time with each child. Your child may open up and talk when he has your undivided attention.These are wonderful informal opportunities for teaching our children about the way God wants us to behave.

Be cautious about the kind of entertainment your children have. Studies have shown that youngsters who watch violent programs, exhibit more aggressive, hateful behaviors. Media games are not wrong per se, providing they are carefully chosen for content, as well as time limited.  A steady diet of the fast moving action can thwart the desire for reading and calmer activities, and may heighten tensions. (See: The Psychological Effects of Violent Media on Children. Dr. Christopher L. Heffner.

Consider the possibility that crabby kids may simply be hungry. Though they must learn, as they mature, that it is never right to do wrong, small children may need healthy snacks to hold them over until meal time to keep them in a happy disposition. Be sure that each day starts with a healthy breakfast. Just because you are not hungry does not mean that your children do not need something to eat. Eating at least a light breakfast should be encouraged for good metabolism for the day. Have you noticed that most of the ready-to-serve cereals have a considerable amount of sugar and corn syrup added? A bowl of sweet "air" will not last long in an active youngster. Do a little boning up on nutrition and what it takes to be healthy at any age.  And don't forget to have meals together as a family at least once a day.

Provide structure for daily activities. Most of us function better with some routines This does not mean you must have a rigid lifestyle. But regular bedtimes, scheduled times for dinner, or other activities, will go a long way towards establishing a peaceful home life.

Pray As A Family

It is important to pray as a family. Pray before your children for a peaceful happy family. Be earnest in your prayers and in your living for the heavenly Father. Seek his righteousness in every day life (Mt. 6:33). Be faithful in your worship attendance (Heb. 10:25). Children learn from what they see and experience, as well as what they hear.

May you be blessed as you meet the challenges of rearing your children in the Lord (Duet. 6:5-7; Eph. 6:4). The rewards will be great when you succeed at the most important responsibility that you have (Prov. 31:28-31). Your young children will be the church of tomorrow—or not.

Recommended Reading

Jason Jackson. Who's Boss?
Wayne Jackson.The Destiny of Our Children: Nature or Nurture. 
Wayne Jackson.Television and Our Children.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Sibling Rivalry —Part 1

by Betty Jackson

With summer coming, school will be out for most home and public schooled children. More challenges for a peaceful environment are no doubt in store! Sibling rivalry or fussing can be one of the most frustrating parts of child rearing. Observation, experience, prayer, and much study of the Scripture will help parents cope with this stressful, yet typical behavior of children. We pray that these suggestions may be helpful.

A Peaceful Environment Begins With Parents

First of all, parents need to love and respect each other. When a couple has significant problems, the family is out of sync. Children who sense or witness serious problems between the parents will have a tough time feeling loved and secure. Although a peaceful home begins with parents, no family is going to be without conflict all the time. There will be differences of opinion. But the environment must be conducive to teaching children how to live in harmony with others, and how to deal with strongly-felt differences. When adult family members disagree, children need to witness them talking kindly and civilly to one another.  

Most conflicts between husbands and wives are best quietly settled in private. But minor matters can be discussed before the children to help them learn how to properly work through differences. Remember: Children learn what they live. Parents who deal with their own disagreements in a godly manner, are already on the road to teaching their offspring how to get along with others. 

We need to be contented people. God's children need to learn, as Paul did (Phil. 4:11-13), how to be happy, in spite of problems. Granted this is a learned response to life's circumstances; but it is crucial that our children do not perceive us as grumpy, whining, self-pitying or always down-and-out people. (We know that some families have serious problems. Here we are not addressing those kinds of severe situations.) How can children learn to be happy and to get along with others if the home atmosphere is heavy with unhappiness and tension?

As you attempt to solve the problem of sibling rivalry, think about the way you talk. Speech is a great revealer of attitudes. Sharp or demeaning tones surely reveal the heart-felt emotions.

The Lord taught that our words come from the heart, whether good or evil (Matthew 15:18-19, Luke 6:45). Paul urged the Ephesians to speak things that are “…good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear” (4:29). How do you speak to your spouse and your children? 

There is some truth to the saying that “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Learn to be content by studying the word of God on this topic. Be grateful every day for what you have, instead of being overwhelmed by what you don’t have. Set the tone for your family. Read what Paul went through in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33. In spite of his suffering, the apostle taught that we are to rejoice in the Lord. Maturation in the Lord will bring us greater happiness and joy. Let that inner peace and joy spill over into every day life, so that your example will impact the lives of your children for greater peace in your household.

Take some time to read Philippians 4:4-9. 

More suggestions will be forthcoming in Part 2. May the Lord bless us each day to be greater examples for those children whom we must train in the Lord (Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:21; Prov. 31:26). 

Recommended Reading

Jason Jackson. Parents Obey Your Father.

Wayne Jackson. Loving Life; Seeing Good Days.

Picture copyright: 123rf Nagy-Bagoly Ilona.