We've all been there. You're tired. The kids are bickering. Again. If only they would just stop fighting. If only they could just quit all the arguing. If you had a magic word, you'd say it, right?
(Hey, magic words might be better than the other kids of words you're tempted to say when the children are fighting!)
Putting the Cart Before the Horse
Imagine that a friend confides that she is overweight and she's decided she needs to make a change. You ask her what she's planning to do. She says that she's going to start wearing jeans that are three sizes smaller and hope for the best.
You'd probably think she was crazy. But the truth of the matter is that we sometimes approach sibling conflict in our homes in a similar way.
This post was featured on The Homeschool Solutions Show with Pam Barnhill. Use the player below to hear me read it to you!
We just want the kids to stop fighting. And so we declare "You guys had better stop fighting. That's it. No more. Stop it."
I'm not saying it's a bad thing to want fewer conflicts. But trying to put a stop to them by threats or declarations is like trying to lose weight by putting on smaller pants: you haven't really gotten to the root of the problem and everyone just feels extremely uncomfortable.
Ignorance is NOT Bliss
Have you ever thought (or even said!) I don't care what they're fighting about. I just want them to quit!
This is somewhat like saying, "I don't care if there is a pipe leaking in my walls, just as long as I don't have to know about it." Damage is still being done, whether you are aware of it or not.
We know our kids aren't perfect, right? We know they have a lot of growing to do in relationship skills, right? Well, then, as ugly as it may be, isn't it better to have the whole piece of Sheetrock come crashing down than for the damage to continue undetected?
Better to have the problem out in the open!
You Can Only Start Where You Are
Perhaps you're tempted to lower the boom because you feel that the extent to which your children are fighting is just ridiculous for their age. For the sake of argument, let's just say that it is. Let's say that they are tweens fussing at each other like toddlers.
Perhaps it's because you haven't provided proper guidance. Perhaps it's because they haven't listened and learned from you as they should. Perhaps it's because it's hot and they're tired.
But whatever the case, one thing is for sure: you can only start from where you are.
People are not products. They don't follow identical growth curves. They don't go through symmetrical stages of maturity.
All you can do is assess where they are, consider how to help them, and focus on making one day's worth of progress today.
It Interrupts the Important Stuff
We've had to skip homeschool lessons to mediate fights. We've been late to church because of sibling issues. It does seem like these sibling problems have messed up the things we should be doing in life.
But actually, teaching our children how to love their neighbor IS what we should be doing. It's not an interruption to our job - it IS our job.
Renowned author C.S. Lewis said
The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own,' or 'real' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life -- the life God is sending one day by day.
The more we learn to see these sibling conflicts as opportunities rather than interruptions, the better we'll be prepared to make wise use of the time we spend working through the disputes and arguments that arise.
You're Missing the REAL Problem
Before you clicked through to read this article, I bet you thought that your main problem was that you have kids who fight.
There's actually another issue going on that makes the fighting seem overwhelming and terrible. In the next article, I'll tell you what the REAL problem is, and point you in the right direction! (Find the next part here.)