Ending the Sibling Wars

Cain and Able may have been the first, but they certainly weren’t the last siblings to have issues. For a lot of reasons, merely being raised in the same home does not automatically make siblings best friends. In fact, some parents unknowingly set the stage for sibling conflicts that can last decades beyond childhood.

It doesn’t have to be that way though. There are plenty of siblings who see each other as friends – some even best friends. Are there things those families do that are different from others? Or are their children just more alike than yours?

Actually birth order, birth gap and personality only play a small role in the relationships your kids will develop with each other. The major impact is in how you expect them to treat each other and how you handle things when the inevitable sibling conflicts arise.

Here are some of our top tips for raising loving siblings.

  1. Teach your kids God wants them to love, serve and be kind to each other. The more your overall family attitude is that you all treat everyone with love, serve others and are kind to everyone, the easier it will be for your kids to treat each other the same way. Remember though, you and your spouse will also have to model these attitudes in how you treat each other.
  2. Remind your kids your family is a TEAM for God. If members of your family are allowed to constantly act selfishly – putting themselves before others – the less likely they will see your family as a unit that works together for the good of everyone. Strong teams realize that at times members must make sacrifices so the team as a whole is stronger. Kids who have an “every man for himself or herself” attitude will be more likely to fight to continually get their way.
  3. Teach your kids each one of them has special gifts from God they can use to serve each other, your family and God. God has most likely given each of your kids some gifts that are slightly or radically different from each other. It’s important they realize no gift is more important than the other – even if one child’s gift gets him or her more attention in the world. All gifts are to be used to serve God. Gratitude to God for those gifts should always be expressed – humility will also strengthen sibling bonds. Remind them that often one or more of their gifts can also be used to serve each other in some way, and encourage them to do that whenever possible.
  4. Do not let your kids use ugly words when speaking to each other. It doesn’t matter how frustrated or angry they are at each other, don’t let them speak harshly to each other in anger. Teach them godly conflict resolution skills and insist they use them. Bad conflict habits often begin by ignoring those same bad habits used between siblings in childhood.
  5. Do not let your kids tease or say ugly things about each other. Many sibling relationships are damaged for life because siblings were regularly allowed to say ugly things to each other under the guise of “teasing”. As an adult, you may think your super skinny daughter knows she doesn’t have “thunder thighs”, but in most cases young people will believe the taunts tossed at them by siblings – even if the teasing seems ridiculous to everyone else. There is no positive outcome from allowing siblings to tease each other – just a slow cracking of the relationship over time.
  6. Encourage your kids to express their love for each other regularly. Not the kick the dirt, “Mom’s forcing me to say it” affection, but genuine honest affection. Encouraging them to say I love you when they are too young to have many conflicts is a great way to start the habit. Homes where parents say “I love you” a lot, seem to also raise kids who are comfortable saying those same words to others.
  7. Help your kids think of ways to encourage and serve each other. Encourage your kids to be proactive in encouraging and serving each other in good times and bad. After a few years of asking them their ideas for celebrating or encouraging each other, they should be able to do some of those things without your prompting.
  8. Do not treat one child with more or less love and kindness than your other children. Playing favorites always turns out badly – just ask Jacob and Esau! There are a million reasons why you may prefer one child over another, but no healthy ones for your kids. Each child has different needs – fair is not always equal. In general though, life should feel fair in your home. There should not be a “golden child” – especially one that every child in your family can easily identify as the same child.
  9. Work together as a family on service projects, sharing your faith and family projects. Working together on things as a family will create a teamwork atmosphere over time. Siblings that are taught to work well together to achieve common goals as kids will be more likely to continue to do it as adults.

It may not be easy, but you can raise your kids to treat each other with love, respect and kindness. It will make your family stronger and healthier. It will also make your family a light in a world of families that can’t get along. It’s worth your time and effort to help your kids build those bonds with each other.

Using the Bible to Help Your Kids Practice School Skills

Is your child struggling in school? Are you concerned your kids will forget some of their math or language skills during the summer vacation? Are you looking for educational activities your family can enjoy together, but that also teach them about God? Do you homeschool?

Our parent ministry Teach One Reach One Ministries has hundreds of free activities to help. Originally designed for ministries to use in faith-based tutoring, many are also things you can do at home with your own children.

For over two hundred Bible stories, we have been creating activities that also directly tie them to elementary math and language arts skills, science, health and ESL. We even have some sustenance and survival activities for those of you up for an adventure. (Of course, there are also Bible, application and service project ideas, too.)

We have hundreds of free activity ideas already uploaded to our website and will be adding several hundred more by the end of the summer. In the coming months, we hope to further sub-divide academic topics into specific skills to make it easier to find the ones you need.

All of the activities are designed by educators and are hands-on, participatory, meaningful and memorable. Most require items you probably already have around the house, while some may require purchasing a few items. So take a look around. Keep checking back as we upload new activity ideas and subdivide them by skills. You can also follow our parent ministry – Teach One Reach One Ministries on Facebook or Instagram for the latest news on additions to our website.

The best part is your kids will also learn things about God as they are practicing skills they need for school. Not to mention getting to spend more quality time with you. It’s the best sort of multi-tasking!

Can Everybody Win in Family Conflicts?

Let’s be honest, conflict can ruin the best of days. When a home is in constant conflict everyone is miserable – even the kids who may not be directly involved in the fighting. So what can parents do to handle conflicts in productive ways that strengthen their family instead of ripping it apart?

Gary Chapman is best known as the author of the Love Languages books. Everybody Wins steps away from the love languages a bit and takes a look at conflict. While the book sounds as if it is written to handle any conflicts, it actually focuses on disagreements between husbands and wives. While that makes sense for many reasons, I honestly believe the principles would apply to any conflict between two people who truly care about each other and their relationship.

This book is an easy read and extremely practical. I won’t say it is easy, because if doing the things he suggests were that easy, we would all be doing them already. The book is small (literally) and has only seven chapters. The first two are more general, while the remaining five address a particular step towards conflict resolution.

To say the advice is common sense is to deny the power it could provide many couples of resolving those marital fights that happen over and over – sometimes for decades. Chapman encourages the reader to reframe how they see themselves, their spouse and the conflict itself in more productive ways.

If both people in the marriage work this book (which includes discussion questions at the end of each chapter), there would be happier marriages all around. The key is to remember that great marriages aren’t an accident. They take work on the parts of both spouses.

If you haven’t read this book and you ever feel like your conflicts aren’t resolved in the best of ways, this is the book you need to read. Changing bad habits may be more difficult than reading the book, but in the end it could make life a lot better.

This book was provided to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.

Ways Toddlers & Preschoolers Can Serve God

Children can begin serving God almost as soon as they begin walking and saying a few words. Sound impossible? It really isn’t. The problem is most people tend to think young people begin serving God in their teens. Yet that is late – for some young people too late – to begin encouraging them to find ways to serve God.

In the beginning, the tasks should be simple and the time in shorter chunks. As they get older, try moving them into areas where they are showing they may be gifted by God and make the amount of each time of service longer. Elementary aged kids can even handle a little hard work!

So what are some of those beginning ways toddlers and preschoolers can serve God? Here are some of our favorites:

  • Handing adults things they need. Sounds silly, but to a toddler, being able to help an adult is a huge, exciting deal. Toddlers can hand you cans of food you are boxing up for food pantries or other objects being donated. Just make sure you need their help again almost as soon as they have handed you an item. If the gap is too long, they will wander away. Don’t make them work too long – you want this to be a positive experience.
  • Filling bags with school supplies or other donations. If you are working on gift bags of school supplies, activity bags for foster children – any type of repetitive bag filling – little ones can help. They will need organization and training to be successful though. Line the items up – a pile of eraser packs, then a stack of notebook paper, etc. Help the child open the bag and show them how to go down the line putting one item from each pile in the bag. Be aware that you will need teens or adults to double check each bag and make the finished bags neat. Some little ones will be able to do this independently, while others will need someone to walk beside them and cue them what to put in the bag next.
  • Making artwork that can be used to encourage others. Honestly the “quality” doesn’t matter. People love getting art from little ones. Have them tell you what they would like to say to the person and write it on the art for them. Don’t forget to get them to “sign” their artwork.
  • Visiting the lonely. Older people in homes, shut-ins, widows – there are a lot of people who get lonely. A young child will brighten almost any day. Make sure young ones are fed and well rested to minimize meltdowns. Some young children are shy so bringing a book for the person to read to them or their favorite game to play can help relax everyone.
  • Making cookies for appreciation gifts. Let them pour the ingredients into the bowl or stir. Teach them how to measure ingredients if they are older. Get them to help you roll the cookie dough. Watch for food safety with little ones, but they can actually do quite a bit. Then have them go with you to deliver the cookies they made.
  • Cleaning activities. Often serving involves cleaning and organizing before and after. Young ones may not be able to do a lot, but they can take small items from one place to another, dust, etc. (Watch them carefully around dangerous items like cleaning fluids.)
  • Inviting people to church. Part of serving others is helping them learn about Jesus and how to become a Christian. Start little ones sharing their faith from the beginning. Encourage them to invite their friends to come to church and church activities with them. If they do it from an early age, it will become a natural thing for them to do when they are older.
  • Encourage them to pray for the needs of others. Preschoolers can understand when someone is sick or sad. Begin having them pray for the people they know and their needs. Then point out as you see God working in that situation.

There are plenty of activities young children can do to serve others and share their faith. Our parent ministry Teach One Reach One Ministries has tons of service project ideas tied to Bible stories that can also be used with your older children. Children who begin serving others in their toddler years often become children, teens and adults who continue to serve God. It’s definitely worth your time and effort.

Do Your Kids Need Apologetics?

Apologetics are “reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something”. In the case of Christians, apologetics usually refers to answers to questions or criticisms commonly posed by people who aren’t Christians. Many young people raised in Christian homes may hear these questions or criticisms from teachers, peers, or even in the things they read and watch.

Some Christian young people may have even wondered about these same things themselves. The problem is that if they are brave enough to voice their questions and concerns, the reaction from other Christians can be extremely negative. Many young people have learned to leave those doubts unexpressed and unfortunately unanswered.

Those who do ask them may have been told some platitude that was formed years ago when the average Christian had no access to things like primary source documents from the early church. Now with the internet, Christians have access to primary source documents, archaeological finds and more within seconds. Unfortunately, many Christians don’t know those things are available or could help provide clearer answers than a platitude that could easily be demolished by a savvy debater.

Before you start immersing your kids in apologetics though, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

  • Apologetics aren’t a replacement for Bible knowledge. Apologetics can help your child understand why Christians believe what they do, but your child still needs to read the Bible to be personally familiar with the scriptures. Apologetics often cover topics in broad strokes, while living a Christian life requires a more detailed, nuanced knowledge and understanding of scripture.
  • Apologetics aren’t the best way to understand how to apply scripture to one’s life. Although there may be some application principles in an apologetics reading, they don’t attempt to cover every application principle in scripture. The focus is generally on the things that confuse or upset non-Christians.
  • Apologetics are only as good as the person who researched and wrote/spoke them. Someone who doesn’t understand scripture or is holding on to some false teaching or man-made doctrine may have faulty apologetics, too. It’s important to screen anything before showing it to your kids or at least watch it with them so you can discuss any areas in which you believe the Bible teaches something differently.
  • Apologetics can prepare and protect your kids from common arguments against Christianity they may hear or read – often in college when you aren’t there to discuss it with them. A good apologetics resource usually addresses the most common questions and criticisms. They will have already explained to your child the answers that are well thought out and researched, using scripture and its underlying principles.
  • Apologetics can keep your kids from allowing someone to take one or two verses out of context and use them as an argument against the correct full picture given by the Bible in its entirety. For example, some people will say the Believers’ or Sinners’ prayer is a way to become a Christian – even though it was invented in the United States a couple of hundred years ago. They will pull out a couple of verses about faith saving you, ignoring the fact that every conversion involved baptism, Jesus himself was baptized, verses in Acts and Romans connect baptism to having your sins forgiven and the early church only accepted baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins as the way of becoming a Christian. Apologetics can point out the problem with a few verses pulled out of context and point your kids back to the full picture found in the Bible.
  • Apologetics are not a way for your child to share his or her faith. That involves sharing the story of Creation and the Fall and God’s plan for redemption. It means your child can tell the story of Jesus – especially about his death, burial and resurrection. It involves your child being able to share how he or she has seen God working in the world today. It also means your child can tell someone the joy found in the Gospel message and how to become a Christian. Bits of that may be found in apologetics material, but is not it’s central purpose.
  • Apologetics can prepare your kids to answer questions others may have when they share their faith with them. When your kids begin to share their faith, some people may have questions or concerns that are answered by apologetics. Those answers will help your kids stay calm and know how to answer them. It also keeps them from giving in to the temptation to answer with a platitude or a less than kind answer out of fear or frustration.

So who are some people who are well known for producing strong apologetics materials? *Lee Strobel has plenty of “Case for” books that many have used over the years. The great thing about his materials is that most of them come in adult, teen and child versions. Sean Mcdowell has videos that can be found on RightNow Media. They are short and easy to understand. Many churches have free subscriptions you can use. J Warner Wallace is a former police detective whose apologetics use forensic science. He also has videos on RightNow Media and several books that are often on sale in the ebook format. Ravi Zacharias is also popular, although I haven’t had time to explore his materials.

Apologetics are not a substitute for teaching your kids the Bible and helping them understand and obey it. They can however, give you some important tools to help strengthen your kids’ spiritual foundations in specific areas. It’s worth exploring them with your kids.

*Please be aware that apologetics writers are human and capable of making mistakes. There is no substitute for the absolute truths found in the Bible. Compare everything they say to scripture for yourself and teach your children to do the same