“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
Having siblings is a great opportunity to learn how to live with and love people God’s way. Especially if we as parents take the moments of struggle and make them teachable times.
In our house, we have found that discipline means developing personal disciplines in our children’s lives, much like a coach or a teacher inculcating effective athletic and academic habits in their players and students.
So when our kids fight–and that is a when not an if–we start by finding out what happened–from both children’s perspectives. Then we ask both children why they chose the action/reaction that they did and what God would have had them to do. If they try to blow it off with an I-don’t-know grunt, we bring them to the appropriate scriptures then ask them to tell us what those scriptures say they should have done instead. Often we have to work through bad attitudes in much the same way. And–as mentioned in an earlier post–we wrap all of this up with both children apologizing for their unloving behavior and asking for/giving forgiveness.
Why do both children get spoken to? It’s been my experience that even the child who has had the toy taken from her immediately reacts selfishly and sinfully in her anger, both contrary to the Word of God. One of the mantras in our home is to look at how schools handle fist fights, “If someone punches you, they’re in trouble. If you punch them back, then you’re in trouble too.” Reciprocating a bad action or attitude isn’t okay.
But doesn’t this take a lot of time? Sometimes it does. Other times, not so much. But it is time well invested in helping our children develop the autonomy of loving actions and attitudes when confronted with unloving ones. Because in real life, the ability to autonomously love others no matter what the situation is the way that others will know that we are Jesus’ disciples.