When it comes to shopping for the kids for Christmas, most moms are concerned that they spend a pretty equal amount on each of the kids so that they won’t look like they are playing favorites. I used to think this was a lot of fuss and bother until I had my own children and then I understood it differently. And really, the principle isn’t that we keep track to the penny; rather, it’s that we do not stumble our children. Jealousy and rivalry are the enemies of the kind of camaraderie you want to cultivate among your children. So parents should do all in their power to strengthen sibling friendships. After all, sibling rivalry is a stock phrase, and we’re all familiar with it. What we have to realize is that the kids are fighting for Mom and Dad’s approval and attention. If one is getting more than the other, or is perceived as getting more, it’s a set-up for trouble.
How do you raise children to be friends with their siblings and not competitors and rivals? The obvious place to begin is with your own parenting. Do you play favorites? Do you point out the strengths of one child to the other? Do you criticize one child and praise the other? If you do, then you can’t be surprised that your sons don’t get along or that your daughters are always squabbling. Comparisons will always stumble your children. “Why can’t you be more like Susie? She always gets A’s?” This will ensure that Susie becomes the resented sister.
Parents are where the action is. And if you delight in each of your children, you will free them to delight in one another. This is just the way it is.
But even when the parents are paying attention to such things and seeking wisdom in this area, the kids can still fuss at each other. Nothing new here. So, parents have to do more than just model. They have to teach and discipline.
Sons have to be taught to honor their sisters. This means speaking courteously to them, opening doors for them, carrying their packages, and standing at the table until they sit down. And daughters must be taught to be respectful of their brothers, speaking to and about them with loyalty and kindness, not criticizing them, teasing them, or making fun of them. If Mom would never dream of pointing out her son’s flaws to her friends, then her daughters will adopt the same standard and be loyal even to a fault. Unkindness, rudeness, pettiness, and criticism must not be tolerated. When it happens, it must be addressed, repented of, and forgiven. It can’t be swept under the rug, excused, overlooked, or ignored.
Brothers must be taught to compete in a godly way, learning good sportsmanship and how to take it like a man. When parents see ungodly competition between brothers, they must discipline for it. Often an older brother may be unaware of his younger brother’s need for affirmation, so he unwittingly rides roughshod over him. This can make for a resentful younger brother. Mom and Dad must have the wise eyes to spot these things so they can teach and direct their sons to be loyal to one another. Mistakes like these made by parents during the boyhood years can result in lifelong problems.
Sisters have to learn to respect one another and not compete for male attention. If Dad is doing his job, then daughters should be secure enough to love one another and not be catty and critical of each other.
All these things require wisdom and faith. If God has called us to be parents, stewards of these little people He has given us, then He will also give us all the resources we need to deal with the many surpises that come with childrearing. We must heed the Word, act wisely, and trust God to make our children life-long friends, loyal to God and to one another.