Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Col 3:12
Nowhere is it more important to practice kindness than at home. And where can you get more practice than in relationships between siblings! Psychology Today says 1/3 of siblings call their relationship rivalrous or distant as adults. Children with poor sibling relationships will be adults with poor sibling relationships if you do not intervene. They may stop fighting eventually – because they stop caring, since they no longer have to live with each other. Friends come and go, but siblings are always there for you, my parents used to remind us. And I can speak to you about siblings, because I have 7 of them!
Do your kids feel connected? How much time can you spend individually? Special dates with both mom and dad cuts down on sibling rivalry. If you have a toddler and a new baby, try to start the day filling the toddler’s little love tank by a good 20 min cuddle. This works with teenagers, too! That helps him or her tolerate the intrusion of a new baby. Do they just need to be heard? Mom was great at telling each older sibling that THEY were having a baby. I carried that on with my kids. And sharing a room is a lab in kindness!
Most sibling fights involve complaining about their brother or sister. I love this quote from an article titled Complaining as Bad Theology: She is speaking of Cain, Miriam with leprosy, Korah swallowed by the earth, and a whole generation denied Promised Land. The cause? They failed to see God’s kindness! “All these characters’ murmurings are grounded in gross under-estimation of God’s love, wisdom, goodness, mercy, kindness, compassion—and, when I dig in the dirt of my own complaints, I quickly hit the same root. This has profound implications for the ways we fight grumbling. So often, we chop off foliage rather than dig roots. We tell our children, or our students, or ourselves, to “just stop complaining”— Its solution is not better discipline, but better worship.” The kindness of God brings us to repentance. Lindsey Brigham Knott, Jun 27, 2016, Circe Institute
One of the best articles I have ever read on sibling relationships is by the respected pediatrician Dr. Sears, with 8 children of his own (all grown now) on AskdrSears.com: Sibling Rivalry: 20 Tips to Stop the Friction. The best tip there is to foster compassion by teaching your small children to pray for each other when they are hurt, when they are nervous, when they have a big test coming up. Comforting a sibling requires having compassion for them.
These kindness principles are not limited to siblings! How do you treat your parents and in-laws? Come up with 3 words that describe your relationships with your parents and your husband’s parents. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Col. 3:12) Are the words compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, or patience? That is exactly how your children will treat you! Good relationships are modeled. Kindness is a habit.
What about only children? How much does you child care about grandma and grandpa? Sometimes that is a natural relationship, but often it has to be fostered. Are your kids alert to the needs of others? I encourage you to pick up Julie Brasington’s book, The Kindness Antennae for great ideas.
I was proud of my 3 year old last week when she was feeling especially kindly disposed towards me and said, “Mom, if Dad turns on that loud, crazy music, I will cover your ears for you! That crazy music is not your best.” I said thank you and thank you for noticing that I don’t enjoy that music (Metallica and AC/DC). That excited her, so she said, “If Daddy turns on crazy music I will say, ‘Alexa! Play Mozart!’ Because Mozart is your best.” Of course, she is 3, so I won’t go into the 30 minute tantrum she had about an hour after that sensitive display of thoughtfulness.
My middle daughter heard her great grandma, my grandmother, who doesn’t get out much anymore, mention how she wishes she has the flavored coffee creamer she really likes. My 14 year old asked me to drive her to the store to get that little treat for her memaw. That is a proud moment for a parent when they notice and sacrifice something to fill that need, rather than telling someone else to do it.
Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist with the graduate school of education, who runs the Making Caring Common project, aimed to help teach kids to be kind. According to a 2014 study released by the group: About 80 percent of the youth in the study said their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others. The interviewees were also three times more likely to agree that “My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.” Ouch!
Use real life & literature examples to inspire a habit of kindness. Think the Pevensies and Frodo & Sam. Some books I recommend are A Hundred Dresses, Ginnie and Geneva, Al Capone Does my Shirts (Moose’s kindness to his autistic sibling is beautiful), Papa’s Pastries. Piggie’s kindness to Gerald in the Mo Willems books warms my heart. I got this idea from Patrick Egan and I LOVE it. This builds an alliance between you and your child.
“We begin to think that perhaps we’ve been too hard on the child. Or maybe we can relax our standards a bit. But then all the work goes down the drain. The child is worse off than when we began, because it will be harder to inspire and instruct a second time. Why is that? Because we didn’t actually believe that this habit would lead to an easier, more fulfilling life for the child. We’ve undermined the inspiration at the worst possible moment. Therefore, don’t accept a half measure. See it through to the end.” Habit Training by Patrick Egan EXPERT TIP: Utilize the captive audience of car time for audio books!
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up! 1 Thessalonians 5:11 applies to siblings. I asked my middle daughter what she attributes her sibling peace and good relationship to. She said it was older sister’s good character. She said her big sister rarely got angry with her, and she walked away when her buttons were pushed. Her older sister modeled good conflict resolutions skills. These don’t come naturally to kids – to anyone. So the Jesus laid out a conflict resolution plan in Matthew. And it applies to brothers and sisters – Grown ones and small ones!
I found this amazing chart when my kids were small: The Brother Offended Chart, from a company called Doorposts. This ends all tattle-taling. When a kid comes crying to you, simply say “Wait. Did you get all the way through the Brother-Offended chart?” The last item on the chart is go to your parents! They will rarely get all the way through the previous 9 steps before either dropping the matter or resolving it. Doorposts has several terrific charts for child training.
Kindness is not being nice. BE NICE is the world’s newest meaningless slogan. Don’t require your children to just “be nice” Niceness in the dictionary is pleasant; agreeable; satisfactory. Nice has to do with an outward façade. You are nice so others are nice to you. Who wants “She was nice” on her tombstone?
Kindness comes from inside. Ephesians 4:32 associates kindness with being forgiving and compassionate. Kindness is a fruit of God’s Holy Spirit living in you. 1 Corinthians 13:4 includes kindness in the very definition of love. That I wouldn’t mind having on my tombstone, “Donielle clothed herself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Excerpts published in MOMs on a Mission magazine, February 2021.
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