Sibling Conflict: How to ‘Make’ Your Children Get Along

This is a guest post by our friend Christi Melrose, a wife and mother of 3 children. Christi shares a recent experience of sibling rivalry in her household and how she handled it.
How do you “make” your children get along? Ultimately we are training our children’s hearts. When my kids are unkind to each other I worry about their hearts, especially when I think of Matthew 12:34 “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” I have a 9, 11, and 13 year old. Lately, I’ve seen behavior that looks like they are out to get each other and generally don’t like each other. This prompted me to check out John Rosemond’s parenting website for some advice.

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First Rosemond explained that conflict is more likely among siblings because they didn’t choose each other. Here are his words:

“You need to come to grips with the realities of sibling relationships. You need to understand that unlike spouses and friends, siblings do not choose one another. Rather, they are thrown together by “accidents” of birth. Conflict between siblings, therefore, is to be expected. Furthermore, siblings are more likely to have conflict than spouses, and considerably more than friends, given that friends don’t usually live together. The long and short of all this is you can’t mandate that siblings have affection for one another. The good news is, most siblings put their childhood differences aside as adults and become as close as their personalities will allow.”

Rosemond suggests a battleship mentality. All three of my kids are in the same boat (same house) and they must learn how to work together to row the boat without rocking it. When they argue, tattle, or get aggressive they are “disturbing the peace” and you as the parent (authority) must restore peace in the home. You can’t stop them from having conflict but you can contain the level of conflict.

John Rosemond suggests the following actions:

  1. Establish a “No disturbing the peace” rule: keep it down, no physical aggression of any kind, and no tattling (even with physical aggression).
  2. When any or all of them break the rule, issue a warning for the day but do not attempt to find out what happened or mediate. Just issue the warning and walk away.
  3. The next day when they violate the rule, “lower the boom” which means confine them to their room for the rest of the day and lights out at 7:30pm. This means ALL of the kids even if they weren’t involved with that particular conflict because at some point they have been involved and this insures that there are no victims or villains.

So, back to my kids. They were “disturbing the peace” and I decided to send them to their rooms. The quiet house was my reward for the kids hassling me and rocking “our boat”! After the incident I decided to give them Rosemond’s explanation about why they may have more conflict than other relationships. I told them that they don’t have to like each other. Their reaction was shock! I then went on to say that they must love and respect each other as God’s children. Here’s the cool part…they played together better than they had in months after that incident!

What I am realizing more and more is that when I use the authority that God gives me as a parent, my children are learning about the character of God and his authority over us. When I don’t obey God, there are natural consequences that follow. They must learn the same and this leads to life in Christ Jesus!

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