I am standing in my kitchen washing dishes when my oldest walks up next to me. In a whinnying voice she cries, “He has my toy and when I tried to take it, he swatted at me.” I sigh, my patience wearing thin since this is the 100th time this has happened this morning.
I put my washcloth down and silently pray…
”Dear lord, I try so hard to raise your children right but I am at a loss here can you send some help my way?”
The morning drudged on, as I refereed arguement after arguement. I lost count on how many times I said to take a break from each other, keep your hands to yourself, and resolved to time outs in separate places until everyone could get along.
Please tell me I am not alone? Ok, I know I am not. I vividly remember fighting constantly with my middle sister. My husband admits it was the same for his siblings and it didn’t end until they all moved out.
Does sibling bickering sound familiar to you?
The constant fighting can grate anyone’s nerves.
Thankfully, God answered my prayers, so I am spreading the message.
Nurturing Sibling Relationships
It is the next day and I am standing at the give and take table at our homeschool Co-op. It is a table where everyone leaves their left-over or used educational resources. Take what you may need and leave something that you no longer need.
Charlotte Mason is the spine in our homeschool. I’ve read her volumes and I am working on utilizing her method. I didn’t think I needed this since it is a companion book but I started to flip through it anyway.
I skimmed the table of contents, reading headings referring to education until chapter 7.
This was a clear, God reached down and said, “Sarah, let me help you, I know you try hard so I know you will listen.”
I sat along the gym edge as my children played, reading the chapter on bickering. It sounded like my children, goodness, it sounded like a lot of siblings. It mentioned habit training from the very beginning. I wasn’t aware of what that was until roughly 1.5 years ago.
It is essentially being proactive in child rearing by focusing on specific habits one at a time for 6-8 weeks. Respecting the whole child in that process while using your motherly critical thinking skills to turn those bad habits around.
This quote spoke to me as I was reading through the bickering chapter.
“Charlotte knew that a child’s character is complex and contains all the possibilities for good or evil. A child will show generosity, pride, ambition, love, and enmity, all in early stages of growth. His character is two sided and, according to his training, his character qualities are either nurtured into virtues or allowed to degenerate into vices.” Karen Andreola
As parents we are called to nurture our children into virtues.
This is something I knew but I needed the reminder. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been parenting or being a good mom. It means that as my children’s mother I need to care for and encourage the growth of virtues in my children.
Based on the bickering going on between my two I needed to focus on nurturing their relationship and redirecting them away from their bickering.
I’ve been working through a sibling packet with them over and over for the last year. One of the biggest take aways from that was teaching them loving and unloving actions.
Perhaps this is a concept that will help you to nurture the sibling relationship?
I will say, it has helped but it isn’t enough. Based off of their arguments and the tension in our home because of it, we had deeper issues. There is much to be read to aid in sibling bickering in that chapter and I encourage you to purchase the book Charlotte Mason Companion By Karen Andreola to read all of the fine details.
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However, the turning point in our family has been discovering an activity that we have all come to call, defeating spiritual giants.
Under the subheading, No bickering, Karen describes great sibling friction occurring in a large family. “The mother weeded out the thorns of family upsets by working with each child’s imagination. She set them up to fight giants.”
That part gave me the chills. Whenever we are dealing with selfishness, lack of patience, anger, loss of self-control, etc we are literally fighting spiritual giants. If we do nothing, these spiritual giants are actively “morally devouring” us.
At home I began this activity with my children. I explained the same idea to them in terms they could understand. Both chose to draw a picture of their spiritual giants. My son drew one giant who likes to fight but my oldest drew a 6 headed monster with one large centered head: Selfishness.
My mouth dropped.
I stammered in my response to her a bit as I came to this realization. That we all have these spiritual giants that we are fighting against.
In the book, Charlotte Mason Companion, the mother “excited” her children’s interest by telling them that “these giants were so curiously huddled together that if one were conquered the others would probably flee.”
Fighting Spiritual Giants
We discussed our spiritual giants in great lengths. I started to direct my oldest to one of her spiritual giants that I found most troublesome: anger. Yet, she explained that selfishness is the real culprit. My husband was involved with this activity as well and said, “Of course selfishness is the biggest problem because you wouldn’t become angry or lose your self-control when you didn’t want to share your toys, if it wasn’t.”
Defeat one spiritual giant and the others will fall.
I discussed with my husband and children my privacy concerns with sharing the personal nature of such an activity. However, everyone agreed that if this helps other families then it is far better to be transparent. I say this all to explain that I took this time to identify my own spiritual giant too: lack of patience.
Which is odd because it use to be one of my greatest strengths yet it has now become my biggest struggle.
I recognize that and I am taking steps to correct it.
By battling spiritual giants with spiritual weapons.
The mother in the story gave her children weapons to defeat their spiritual giants.
Scripture verses to counter each spiritual giant, so that is what I did. Everyday, we direct our spiritual weapons at our spiritual giants and everyday they grow weaker.
I challenge you to do the same.
If you and your family are struggling with a gross amount of friction with constant sibling bickering then I challenge you to fight your spiritual giants.
These are some of the common spiritual giants with their corresponding spiritual weapons:
Selfishness: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. -Philippians 2:3
Anger: “A fool gives vents to his anger but the wise holds it back.” Proverbs 29:11
Lack of Patience: “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel. Proverbs 18:15
Lack of Self-Control: “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” Proverbs 25:28
We have been actively fighting our spiritual giants with our spiritual weapons for roughly 2 weeks now. They are not defeated but they have been severely weakened. In the process of defeating our spiritual giants I added another weapon to the battle.
Identifying our spiritual strengths.
If we have spiritual giants then we personally must have spiritual strengths? I explained this to both of my children. They both thought about it, as did I, and we all are now aware of our spiritual strengths. I then taught them this very important concept:
Your spiritual strength can be turned around and used as a weapon against your spiritual giant.
God’s strength within us.
My daughter’s spiritual strength is prayer. She prays constantly, fervently, and firmly believes her prayers will be answered to his will. She has been using her spiritual strength; prayer, to defeat her spiritual giant.
I have the stamina of a wild mustang. I don’t mean this conceitedly, I just know this is a spiritual strength that God has gifted to me. By recognizing that, it has encouraged me to faithfully and diligently stay strong as I raise God’s children.
Perhaps, once you and your children recognize your spiritual strengths, you all will defeat your spiritual giants too?
May God’s strength also be within you.