Read Romans 16:17-25
"Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it."
The Bible lays the basic ground rules for parenting. But the specifics aren't always apparent. I gain a lot of my parenting strategies from other Christian moms. We talk and suggest this or that worked for us. Christian radio, tv, movies, and blogs are also helpful. I learn a little here and a little there. It feels safe to take this guidance from other Bible-believing people. We all just want what is best for our kids. I can't go wrong when the advice is from a trusted source, right?
It was a few years ago and I was sitting in a Christian women’s group, excited to hear a speaker talk on “Sibling Rivalry.” My two girls are 3 years apart and so different and fought constantly. I was very eager to hear what the speaker, a Christian Psychologist with 4 children of her own, had to say that would help me find peace between my kids.
Her basic concept was that siblings will fight, it is normal and healthy. Don’t interfere unless they are causing botily harm to one another. I remember her saying, “I don’t break up fights unless there is blood.” Everyone in the audience chuckled. The children need to figure out conflict on their own because mom picking sides will hurt their feelings, she said. I also remember this quote that was immensely encouraging (at the time), “Your job as a mother isn’t to make your children be best friends, it is to help them get through childhood without killing each other.”
Whew! I could deal with that. It was such a relief to know my kids were normal. The fighting was normal. The screaming was normal. The bickering, pushing, shoving, angry looks, and hostile exchanges were all normal. I breathed a sigh of relief and continued on in the termoil. Amazingly, or not so amazingly, the outcome didn’t change in our house. There wasn’t any peace.
I still longed for children who got along. Their 3 year age difference didn't seem like a good excuse when I knew they were capable of kindness. I wondered if there was a way to teach my children to be nice and maybe, just maybe, treat one another with love. I opened my Bible and what I saw confirmed this:
"The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith."
I Timothy 1:5
"And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us...".
"Let your love be sincere: hate what is evil and hold fast to what is good."
"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Jesus' words!
As I was reading, this sounded nothing like "Your job is to help them get through childhood without killing each other." In fact, the above Scriptures encourage us to love like Christ. No fighting, screaming, bickering, pushing, shoving, angry looks, and hostile exchanges were described.
My growing convictions were enforced when I read a friend's blog post (published here on Drops in November) about Sibling Love. She said just what I read in the Scripture, children can be and should be taught to love each other!
My specific parenting method had strayed far from the Biblical basics I desired. So I changed everything. I broke up my children's fights. I listened. I punished any un-loving behavior. Christ-like behavior became the goal. I highly praised kindness and encouraged generosity. Aggressive actions were not allowed at all (keep in mind I have girls I'm dealing with in this scenario, check out Bringing Up Boys for ways to handle aggression in boys).
Yes, this method is lots of work for the parents. It takes more time, but adds more peace. I'll take peace any day over the un-Christ-like turmoil of my previous strategy.
I have seen many changes in my girls. Sure they still have rivalries, but far less often. I see more kindness and more love! They are 6 and 3 and call each other "best sisters." Helping them solve problems and talk through differences is maturing them and growing them into individuals who follow Christ.
As for the "Christian advice" I listened to a few years ago on siblings.... I wish I would have tested it with the Bible. Her advice did not line up with the love Christ desires in our families. I was naive like Romans 16:17-18 says, "I urge you to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.... By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people."
The Bible doesn't just lay the basic ground rules for parenting -- it gives specifics too. Great advice can be gleaned from trusted Christian sources, but it will always line up with what the Bible says. We must remember to constantly check well-meant ideas with the best Source.