How Living With a Sibling Can Be Preparation For Living With a Spouse

“Mommy, we don’t want to play with him, he’s mean.”

I have heard that line so many times from my daughter in reference to my son, my warrior lion boy who leaps through his day growling and preparing for battle.

“Honey, boys sometimes act differently than girls, and while it may seem like he’s being mean, he’s just really into playing lions.”

I bring my daughter and my son and her friend together, and we talk about playing together, and taking turns with what they play. I advocate that they find ways to include each other. I understand that sometimes girls need to play with girls, and boys with boys, but overall, I’m trying to instill a bond between my children where they want to play with each other.

I do not want to perpetuate the popular thinking that sibling rivalry has to be normative (sin, of course, is normative).

Almost every movie or T.V. show I see, siblings are at each other with ugliness; it’s a rarity to see genuine friendship or tenderness between them, especially between brothers and sisters.

I understand that there is conflict between siblings, we have plenty of it, but I don’t want to foster the idea that it’s okay to ignore or even encourage sibling bickering. I am holding my ground on this one in our family, and at every turn I’m reminding my children that God gave them to each other to be friends, and to love each other and be kind to each other. We deal with conflict daily, but my heart is to admonish my children to be close and tender-hearted with each other.

We even encourage our children to be best friends.

We tell them to watch out for each other, protect each other, and respect each other. We try and teach them to serve each other, think of the other before themselves, and treat the other how they want to be treated. Basically, we’re civilizing them. We’re preparing them for life, and even marriage.

I know the more I strengthen my children’s resolve in treating one another with love and respect, the more prepared they will be in marriage. Living with a sibling is like living with a spouse. You must choose to love, even when the days get long and the other person’s faults make you crazy. You choose love. You choose forgiveness and grace. The day in and day out of choosing to love someone, faults and all, is accepting the human story: we are mess makers, but the Maker loves us anyway.

I want my children to reflect the Maker. I want them to love well, to be gracious, and to be long-suffering.

I want to teach them to love the eternal soul of another, with all its intricacies, weaknesses, and beauty.

No, I will not accept the “cat and dog” mentality of the sibling relationship; I’m aiming higher. I’m aiming for love.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7

How do you handle sibling conflict in your home?

Love, Sarah Mae

P.S. Want more encouragement in motherhood? Consider coming to a Mom Heart Conference! I’ll be speaking at the Denver one January 24th-25th and I’d love to meet you!

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  1. Marlene says

    Such an encouragement to read your post. God’s timing! I was just getting tired in the battle of our heart goal to not accept the sibling rivalry and bickering as “normal” and foster positive interactions and help them to develop into best friends. We tell our children, that by God’s design He chose them to be siblings…He made each of them as a perfect fit into our family. We too spend time explaining that a boy’s roughhousing is not intended to be aggression but love. We also ask for them to always consider that their brother or sister has a good heart intent in their action and not jump to the conclusion they are out to get each other but each makes mistakes. We have cooling off periods for when emotions are escalating. It is not discipline but freedom to walk away and spend time alone to regroup before words and actions start spewing. Conflict resolution we try and teach them that they can express anything that does with themselves but try to train them not to be focused on what the other person did with statements like “she wouldn’t share” but rather “i wanted this toy and I felt like I was never going to have a turn or I didn’t want to wait for my turn.”…..We have very few family rules #1 Love God #2 Think of Others above yourself #3 respect people in this home and treat as if a treasure. As family and holiday time approaches I need to refocus on our family’s heart and not let outsides influence the gates of our home. Thanks for the reminder and encouragement.

  2. Heather says

    I love this! Perspective changes when we know how much God loves us even in all our messes! Our family is right along with you–to accept each as we have been created and love, honor and serve one another! God has our back, so why shouldn’t we teach that to our kids to live out with each other?! Thanks for the timely message, Sarah Mae!

  3. Judy says

    “I do not want to perpetuate the popular thinking that sibling rivalry has to be normative (sin, of course, is normative).”

    I just want to encourage you, Sarah (and other young moms who are pursuing a different way). My son is twenty and my daughter getting close to seventeen now, and by God’s grace, all those hours of helping them see each other’s point of view, learning to enjoy each other’s games, looking out for each other… have manifested themselves in deep affection and trust. My son is at university (third year away) but the bonds hold as they text each other with prayer requests, funny anecdotes and gentle teasing – friendship. May God bless your faithfulness in the same way.

  4. Adriana says

    This was timely! There is a real struggle in our house between a boy and girl sibling. The girls love each other at least half the time and find true pleasure playing together and sharing, but that boy and first born girl are rubbing each other at every opportunity. I need to be encouraged to not grow weary in doing good because it would be much easier to separate them. They need each other I remind them, God gave them to each other as a gift. Even if the gift is learning how to get along with people that are hard for you to love.

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