The above picture perfectly depicts my day to day.
One child is always anticipating, moving forward to the next thing. The other is content to just enjoy the moment, not thinking about what is to come but only aware of what is right in front of him.
And then there’s me somewhere in the middle.
Literally…refereeing between the two very different personalities that so easily frustrate and annoy the other.
The effort to maintain peace can be exhausting. There have been days where I found myself, at wit’s end, just throwing up my hands saying, “Can’t we ALL just GET ALONG?!”
As much as I would love for that statement to work, you and I both know that building good relationships are not usually that easy. Especially with someone who thinks and acts very differently than you.
In relationships outside the family, you may be able to cut ties or not hang out with that person very much.
When you are a part of the same family–harmony must be pursued.
Otherwise, it’s just miserable.
We get A LOT of practice in our home in the art of “getting along.”
When my children were younger, it was a bit easier to handle. I could redirect their attention, make them laugh, pull out a snack…and hard feelings would usually subside.
Now I have full fledged emotions, words, and body parts involved in the conflict.
And nothing gets me boiling quicker than a sibling fight.
Last year, I was ready to resign myself to the lie that “this is the way it will always be.”
It was then that I went to God (wish I would have done that first), surrendering my fears (of raising the most difficult human beings on the planet), and begging God for wisdom in how I could train and help my children have a thriving relationship.
We are still in the thick of it at our house but God has been faithful to give us ideas, truth to depend on, and hope that He is at work in our home and in our day to day dealings with one another.
Here are some things we have been learning and trying. I pray they encourage you too.
“Getting Along” encourages Mutual Respect
We desire and pray for our children to be close friends for life. We encourage them on a daily basis to give thanks for the way the Lord made their sibling.
We discuss the creativity of our God and how He designs each of us with a unique purpose. One person’s strength is another one’s weakness. God created us to help each other and when we value what each person contributes, it is like a symphony making beautiful music.
The reality is that our kids are going to be faced with challenges in friendships and relationships along the way. They are going to encounter people different from them all the time.
We are practicing respecting others in our family even now with this hope in mind:
“So let us do all we can to live in peace. And let us work hard to build up one another.” Romans 14:19
“Getting Along” builds bridges to share the gospel.
As Christians, Jesus tells us to GO and make disciples of all nations. We were created and given the purpose of telling others about Jesus.
When we only do things “our” way, or shy away from people who do things differently than us, we are missing out on opportunities to be a light, to be a friend, or encourage that person in their faith.
We like to exhort our kids in this task even NOW.
We love to praise and reward times where we see our children think of others before themselves. It is rare indeed!
But even within the sibling context, we make a big deal when they act kindly, patiently, and with compassion. We speak into their future with words like, “You are a great friend to your sister. Your words were a gift to her. I can’t wait to see how God is going to use your kindness to encourage others one day.”
We cast a vision for the long-term goal. We are not just trying to make it easier on us at home…to have some peace and quiet…we are doing kingdom work here within the walls of our home.
We are praying for children who will become world changers!
3. “Getting Along” builds character.
I often tell the kids that God not only created each of us but put us all together in the same family for a reason.
Although “getting along” feels tough at times, He does not make mistakes. God knew what He was doing.
God wants us to be like Him. Our character does not usually grow through easy times but most often through difficulty.
Guess what? Learning to get along with your sibling is the perfect “character building” practice.
When there is conflict, we try and let the punishment fit the crime.
When something unkind is said, they say something kind to their sibling.
When they use hands to hurt the other, they use their hands to serve the other by making their bed, their snack, clearing their dishes, etc…
When they are bored and pick at each other because there is just nothing else to do, they do a chore together.
We haven’t tried this yet, but I think it is brilliant!
We take breaks to “get along.”
Something we do even though my kids are not napping anymore is have room time during the day.
It’s impossible to expect them to be kind and loving towards each other all day long. It’s hard to be with someone all the time and not get annoyed.
I have found that when my kids have some time alone in their rooms to relax, read, draw, listen to music, or just chill they are more capable to handle “each other” the rest of the day.
This is something that took time to train. At first, they hated this time and were wanting to come out of their rooms constantly.
Now they look forward to the quiet. In fact, they even ask if they can have room time “together!” It’s amazing how forcing them to be apart makes them fonder for one another.
It also is imperative for me to have this break as well. I get a chance to recharge and respond more patiently and lovingly as we move into the hardest part of our day…late afternoon and dinner.
We model it for them.
This is the most humbling part for me.
Most of us have a spouse who we are learning the art of “getting along” with and our children are watching.
How does Mom handle her frustration? Conflict?
It has helped me to make my husband a priority and make sure we take time to connect.
We want our kids to see the value of forgiveness and restoration through our conflict resolution.
Our prayer is that they can see the joy and depth of a relationship that is grounded in love and respect. It’s a high charge for Richard and I but worth it!
We consistently pray and learn Scripture in the art of “getting along.”
We cannot soften or change hearts…only God can. I don’t want robots for children who are going through the motions “acting” like they like each other.
NO! We are praying for authentic heart change and a genuine love and respect for their sibling.
It is discouraging at times because it seems like nothing is happening.
But God’s Word does not return void, so we memorize verses and read Bible stories that hide God’s Word in our hearts. Our favorite verse is Ephesians 4:32,
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
And lastly, and a lesson that I have been slow in learning…
We are not responsible for their happiness.
It’s hard not to make my children’s conflict personal. What am I doing wrong?
The truth is…nothing.
Kids sin just like us, and they are “in process” just like us. God is not done with them yet. He is just beginning.
I cannot make them happy all the time. Their sibling is not responsible for their happiness. Only God can be the source of TRUE happiness.
Struggles, conflict, and challenges all point us to our need for help. Someone greater than ourselves.
When I am constantly trying to help them figure it all out, they are not seeking God.
They are learning to depend on me.
When I help train them, encourage them, and pray for them, I am letting them know they are not alone in the process of learning to “get along.”
But I am also recognizing that God is in control. He has their best interest at heart. I point them to Him where He will lead, guide, and transform them.
We can trust in Him friends.