Monday, August 6, 2012

Sibling rivalry... a subject close to my heart...

These lazy summer days have been a blessing in so many ways, getting to spend every waking minute with my boys, kitty cats, and hubby (his schedule allowing).  We have had days with tons of structure,   learning activities, play dates, pool time.  We have also had days of little to no structure at all, spending lots of lazy time at home.  Of course, the first half of summer was cherished time together, loving having my kiddos at home and no where specifically to be early in the morning.  However, it is becoming increasingly tense between my boys as the summer goes on.  I have been mediating arguments on a daily basis, and I seeing small (but some) progress in the boys working things out by themselves.

Our biggest problems stem from the instinctive need to retaliate when wronged.  I find myself referring to 1st Pet 3:8 & 9 all to often this summer: "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another, be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.  DO NOT repay evil with evil or insult for insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing."  You see, even one of my sons does something to his brother by accident, the other brother immediately jumps to being angry and resorting to retaliation.  This often surfaces in physical retaliation if the offense was of any physical nature.  Don't get me wrong, my kids aren't beating each other up every day.  But, at least one time per day, there will be a fight between them that erupts in some kind of physical altercation.  I am really trying to reward the brother that takes the high road - taking a moment to think the conflict through, and does not jump to physically reacting.  I mean really trying.  I am also really trying to repeat Ephesians 4:2 over and over, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love".

The patience one is the hardest for me.  I suffer from something I have named myself as "severely logical disorder".  Meaning, I immediately think to myself, "We have gone over this a hundred times, why don't you just take turns with the toy for Pete's sake??"..  I immediately jump to the 'got a problem - fix it' mentality.  That's how I am - fix one problem - move on to the next.  So when my kids dwell in their problems, and perpetuate them even farther - I immediately begin to assume that they were switched at birth...  somehow... logically I know they were the only set of twins born that day, so that couldn't possibly be true.  But still....  Anyway...  Then I realize that conflict resolution and sibling relationships in general are constantly changing and needing of maintenance - or "reworking" - if you will.  What works today may not always work tomorrow, and it is my job to continue to provide them with the tools to "get along"...  and apparently in a relationship such as a twin brother relationship, this can take a lifetime.

All of the skills I try to teach them are what every good parent wants for their children.  Patience, humility, pleasantness, compassion, loyalty, friendship, productive and positive expression, celebrating the gift of family, and truly loving one another.  All of these skills are what God wants for us to teach our children, yet I struggle with these on a daily basis.  It seems impossible to teach all of them, all of the time.  So I just break it down into small chunks, focusing on which behavior trait fits the crime of the moment.  Even though I have been a mother for almost 20 years now, I still second guess my effectiveness on a moment to moment basis.  Especially the older that my children get.

I was fortunate enough to hear a wonderful mother and servant of God speak at our church over the winter.  She has raised her children to adulthood and really mentors us moms on the topics of parenting and marriage.  Some of the advice that she has given me that has stuck with me are as follows:

  • To really treasure the gift of family.  To encourage the friendship between your children and to have them always watching out for one another.  This includes the sentiment that friends will come and go, but family lasts forever.  This is where having one another's backs and not tattling on each other comes into play.
  • Walk the walk, practice what you preach, model the behaviors that you want your children to have.   She says that modeling conflict resolution, creating the expectation of friendship, being consistent, patient, and gentle, and watching your tone of voice are all so important.  This speaks to me specifically, knowing that I have much improvement to do on these things myself, let alone teach this to my children.  She mentions that values are more caught than taught - this couldn't be more true!  That is why I second guess myself as a parent so much - always worried that my kids will behave as they see other kids doing.  
  • Incorporate more praise into your child's life and celebrate any victory between siblings in their behavior - no matter how small!   
  • Most importantly - pray for your children.  I feel like I pray constantly for my children, but she mentioned something very key.  She mentioned to pray out loud in front of your children for them and their behavior.  Not in a mocking or venting tone of voice of course, but in a loving manner that will help them understand just how important their getting along is to you.
Looking over what God wants for me to teach and impress upon my children, 18 years doesn't seem like nearly enough time.  But I know that I can prioritize the skills they need to mold them into pleasant, productive, God loving men.  And that I will always have time to continue to mentor them as they become adults and have families of their own.  Sometimes I get sad, thinking that they are halfway to 18 and I feel like I don't have much time left with them.  But I know that the best is yet to come with my boys, and so I press on.  Teaching, mentoring, loving, and guiding them as they grow.  Fostering respect and love in all that they do.  This is an uphill battle for sure, but I am working on hitching a ride now and then by collecting every little tool in my mommy toolbox that I can.

Hear someone speak recently that really struck a cord with you??  Read a book about parenting that has changed your life??  I would love to hear about it...  leave me a comment so others can read your advice as well....

1 comment:

Kathy said...

Heather, This is written so well! I love that God has used me, even in a small way, to encourage you in your parenting journey. Keep up the great work of looking to Him for help & encouragement. He is so faithful!
God bless,