Sibling Summer Survival Guide

The summer is great for so many reasons…{your list here!}. For us it means a lot more time at home (too hot in Texas to be outside, unless you are in a pool) AND a lot more time together.

Given all this “time together” brothers can start to get agitated with one another. Buttons get pushed more frequently. Anger rises quickly. I find myself yelling, “STOP IT!” more often than I’d like.

The past few summers, unintentionally, we’ve been targeting some aspects of getting along and working together as a family. After talking with a friend about some of our “relationship lessons”, I thought I would share them with y’all.

1. Peacemaker Pledge

During our vacation I was reading through an Andrew Murray book and I was struck by one passage:

“To quarrel is a sin that comes too easily to children.  Let us train ours to respect the rights of others, to bear & to forgive when our own are affected.”-Andrew Murray

He also used the words: “Seek peace, and pursue it.” AND the verse:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

His words have given me words to express to my boys what I desire for my home. Yes, boys will be wild. However, we can pursue peaceful relationships and still be energetic and fun.

This week we had another “tea party” (snacks of choice…pop tarts cut into small pieces and banana slices). I grabbed a piece of paper and we brainstormed what it takes to be a “peacemaker”. Here is our list:

Since making the list I think we would add: “no name calling” or the positive version–> “encourage with words”. Some of the items on this list are self-explanatory (“no hitting)…others I thought I would go into more specifically below:

2. Harsh Word, Gentle Word

Controlling my tongue is a struggle. One summer I noticed that we all were speaking in a harsh tone. Again, I referenced “The Well-Versed Family”…my boys and I learned the verse:

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

The hand motions we used while learning the verse are:

  • “gentle answer”= bring together thumb with pointer/middle finger & then open…keeping opening/closing, back & forth (like a little bird’s beak)
  • “turns away wrath”=sweeping gesture of right hand from the front to around your back.
  • “harsh word”=bring two hands/arms together and apart (like a crocodile mouth opening)
  • “stirs up anger”=stirring a pot

Then when any of us started to use a harsh voice, we could be reminded by the hand sign for “gentle answer” or by a verbal reminder, saying “gentle answer” or “don’t stir up anger”.

3. Treat your brother special (honor)

The concept of “honor” came from the work of Dr. Scott Turansky & Joann Miller. They have several wonderful parenting books. One area they focus on is honoring your parents, honoring your siblings. They define honor as: “Treating others special. And doing more than is expected”.

I know its hard sometimes to just get my boys to obey and do what is expected. Then to have them “honor” and do more than is expected…tricky. However, I have noticed when I encourage and positively affirm the times they have “honored” a brother their desire to “honor” increases.

For instance, I’ve asked the boys to get their shoes. A few times one brother has not only put on his shoes but has gotten his brother’s shoes for him. Immediately I use the words, “Wow! Thank you for honoring your brother by doing more than is expected! Not only getting your shoes on but helping get his as well.”

If I notice a brother being unkind or hurtful, I use the gentle reminder: “Treat your brother special.” They are still trying to grasp the concept of “special”. I ask them how they would treat someone they think is really important…the President, famous basketball player, Elmo. =) Then I say, if that person was here, you wouldn’t hit them in the face or take away their toy. You would offer them some food, speak kindly, and share your things with them.

4. Talk to him first 

My mother-in-law wisely advised me: when your children argue try not to get involved. She reasoned when you do get involved it forces them to take sides and “present” their case to you; trying to win you over to their side of the argument.

When one boy offends the other and they come running to tell me (aka “tattle telling”), I immediately ask them, “Have you talked to your brother? Have you told him how you feel?”. Most often they haven’t. For my two-year-old I give him words to say, “Tell your brother: I don’t like when you hit me. It hurts” or “When you are done with that toy can I play with it?”.

Siblings are the first deep, peer relationships our children will have in which they learn to work through challenging disagreements, communicate frustrations, seek forgiveness, and reconciliation. According to the Bible,

 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” (Matthew 18:15).

This verse was directed towards dealing with sin in the church. I feel teaching our children to go to the offender first instills a good habit for the rest of his/her life.

Now if you see us at a pool this summer & my boys are arguing with one another, please do not judge or hold me to an unreasonable standard. I’m just hoping by training my boys in how to get along peaceable with others, as adults they will have healthy & happy relationships. The way they relate to one another will not bring them glory but glorify God, the author of relationships.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

*If you want to read more about peacemaking, check out the website: Peacemaker Ministries

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10 thoughts on “Sibling Summer Survival Guide

  1. Great Post! Definitely needed this one. The ideas you presented will help now that my oldest is out of school for the summer. I often think when I start putting steps like these into practice every day that I should see this immediate transformation of my house but in reality it takes lots of time going over and over the ideas before you see radical changes. The small changes are what I need to look for in the relationships between my kids. Thanks for the great ideas!

    • oh so true! I’m an instant results person too. If a technique/approach doesn’t work within the first day I’m ready to throw in the towel! thank you for reminding me it’s about small changes!

  2. Absolutely WONDERFUL and timely post. I love how you point on the small things we can do to make big changes in our boys’ lives. Thank you!

  3. Thank you for this Heather!! I have to admit that although I’m ready for summer, and glad for some down time…I have been worried about time at home, and the sibling interactions. I was so encouraged by this guide, and ready to put some of your wisdom into action! BTW, I love that you have tea with your boys. And that it is such a purposeful time. Today, I brought some tea, crackers, and a sheet of paper out with my kids. Such a great time talking! Thanks for the idea! I’m planning a book idea for you! 🙂 Tea Truths I think it should be called!

  4. This is awesome! I will definitely be putting these into practice this summer! I was just noticing my girls have started bickering more frequently lately and was running out of ways to tell them to “stop it!” Ha!

  5. Pingback: Evil for Evil {Sibling Summer Survival Activity} | God centered mom

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