Sibling rivalry is as old as Cain and Abel. Perhaps you are dealing with the animosity that your toddler is showing towards his infant sister. Or maybe you haven’t talked to your brother in years because you just can’t get along with him. Are your teenagers or tweens constantly at odds? Please, don’t ignore it and chalk it up to normal family life.
I firmly believe that Christ came to give us abundant life and the outpouring of this abundant life is meant to occur in our homes. So as parents and caregivers we need to teach and model reconciliation. Our kids need to experience reconciliation with their siblings, their friends and we all need this skill in our world today.
To bring reconciliation we have to uncover and root out the factors that inhibit reconciliation. Jealousy, identity, pride, and their offspring (self-righteousness, bitterness, comparison, hurt) are items that I will focus on in this series.
One of the roots is comparison. When one child compares the amount of attention a sibling gets, the portion-size on her plate compared to her sisters, or how much more intelligent, athletic or skilled they think another sibling is, jealousy will occur.
Galatians 5:20 calls jealousy a work of the flesh, meaning an outward manifestation of a way of thinking that is contrary to God’s ways.
Does each of your children see themselves the way God sees them? If they don’t, they are thinking about themselves contrary to how God thinks of them. A self-concept or identity that is contrary to God’s perspective will lead to the works of the flesh because:
they will behave according to how they view themselves or act out of the frustration of who they perceive themselves to be.
God’s view of them must become more truthful and reliable than their own.
“Am I Good Enough to be Loved?”
The Father was pleased with Jesus before he did any great work. Jesus was affirmed by his heavenly father based on his relationship, not great deeds.
Sibling rivalry often occurs when kids think that they have to earn their parents’ acceptance. Am I good enough to be loved? Sometimes a child will perceive that their sibling is getting attention or acceptance based on performance–a deed that they didn’t do or a personality trait that they don’t have. For instance, my younger sister would get attention for her dynamic personality and stunning smile. She was quite photogenic. On the other hand, I identified with the ugly duckling in the children’s story. Unnoticed, timid, and unwelcome. At least those were my childhood perceptions. As parents, we never know what is going on in the universe of our child’s mind unless we pursue them. It times time and effort to find space to dialogue with each of our children and find out what they perceive about themselves in relation to their siblings. But doing so can open the door to the healing of their self-concept, emotions, and eventually their relationships with their sisters and brothers. God wants them to be secure in who he created them to be, not perceive that they are not “good enough” to be loved and accepted by you.
Part 2 – I will discuss securing our children’s sense of identity.
Tina Webb is a deeply spiritual, committed parent whose lens on faith and family challenges and inspires. All Christian parents need the kind of guidance, reassurance, and conviction she offers in Cultivating the Souls of Parents. – Mary Butler Coleman, Executive Director, City of Promise