Family mottos – the 1 line lecture

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Your child’s eyes glaze over and the shutters go down. You get madder and the barrage of words gets louder and longer. Thus begins the parent lecture. Effective? Not usually. Do we all do it? Yep. Is there an alternative? Definitely.

First:

Stop lecturing and start giving calm, consistent, well thought-out consequences. Complete your If/Then chart and know ahead of time how you intend to deal with repeated wrong behaviours. Make sure your child knows what they should be doing in the given situation and train the virtue to counteract the vice. Ensure you have the foundations in place. Read great parenting book such as “Taming the Lecture Bug” by Joey and Carla Link.

Second:

Do most of your training in periods of non-conflict. See here and here.

Third; resign yourself to the fact that reminders will be necessary:

Behaviours do eventually move into the “needing immediate consequences” category, but lets face it, even as adults we don’t change built in patterns of behaviour overnight. (How many resolutions have you broken soon after making them?) Children need time to form new habits of behaviour. This is where family mottos come in.

While you are teaching your children what to do and why they should do it, use simple, catchy phrases that will remind them of this teaching. They need to be short and immediately bring to mind the lessons that you have covered.

For example, while we are working on kind speech we memorise bible verses, read character based stories, sing songs with words that remind us of the truths we are studying and use character based curriculum to delve further into the concept. Our catchy phrase is “lift others up” which comes from one of our memory verses; 1 Thess 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up…”

When I hear that the tone of a conversation is starting to slide, I can briefly call out “lift others up” or ask “are you building one another up?” I can use an encouraging tone and have no need of consequences as the children have not yet stepped over the line so to speak. They know what this phrase means, they know they must make a change and they know that if they continue on the path they are on without making a change then consequences are ahead. Quick, easy and stress-free and often very effective.

The following are some of the mottos we use frequently in my family. Many of them are very short summaries of bible verses or biblical concepts that we have studied. We have used the full verse as memory work and discussed what they mean and brainstormed what they look like in action, talking about ways we can apply them in our own lives. When I give the one line lecture version it should bring to the children’s mind the full meaning of the original words, complete with what they should/could be doing in their current situation.

  • Think it through
  • Eat like a lady/gentleman
  • Pot (short for the pot calling the kettle black)
  • Let tomorrow worry about itself
  • Do not let your voice enter a room before your legs do
  • You are not responsible for other people’s behavior, only your own
  • You can’t control what other people do. You can control how you react
  • Thank you but we don’t need a third parent
  • If you are bored I can find you something to do (hello cleaning job)
  • Treat others the way you want to be treated
  • Think of others
  • Lift others up
  • Leave it nice for the next person
  • Your attitude determines your direction
  • You have a choice – choose the right path
  • Where are you on the slippery slope (From the Young Peacemaker curriculum)
  • Be a peacemaker (From the Young Peacemaker curriculum)
  • Put a guard on your lips
  • Self-control
  • Patience
  • Anger doesn’t solve anything
  • Lying always makes things worse
  • Do not let your anger lead you into sin
  • Don’t let your volcano explode (emotional outbursts)
  • Being late is stealing other people’s time
  • Make a good choice
  • Pascoes stick together (Insert your family name)
  • Work first, play later (or responsibilities first, play later)
  • Stay on task
  • No need to hold on to that, it won’t fall off (Little boy’s private parts)
  • Room time is quiet time
  • Go outside and get some sunshine
  • Good, Better, Best
  • Screaming is for emergencies
  • Are you using your time well/wisely?

My friend Meredith recently spoke about the family motto concept at our GEMS group, so here are some of her favourites, plus a few from the other Mothers and several more I found on the net:

  • Don’t pass it up, pick it up
  • Straight away, all the way, with a happy heart
  • I want never gets
  • Watching is learning, learning is helping
  • Keep your head, don’t panic
  • Difficult does not mean impossible
  • Leave it better than you found it
  • Many hands make light work
  • There is no better test of a man’s integrity than his behaviour when he is wrong (Marvin Williams)
  • Show respect even to people who don’t deserve it, not as a reflections of their character, but as a reflection of yours
  • You are free to choose. You are not free from the consequences of your choices
  • Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking
  • You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit or You get what you get and you don’t get upset
  • Mistakes are proof that you are trying
  • Practice makes progress
  • Handsome is as handsome does – or pretty/beauty in place of handsome (J.R.R. Tolkien)
  • If you are afraid to fail you will never do the things you are capable of doing (John Wodden)
  • There is no substitute for hard work (Thomas Edison)
  • Worry ends when faith begins
  • Open your heart more than your mouth
  • You can learn something new every day if you listen
  • Even a child is known by his actions
  • With God, nothing is impossible
  • Strong people don’t put others down, they lift them up
  • If you want to have a friend, be one
  • Wrong is wrong even if everyone else is doing it. Right is right even when no one else is doing it.
  • Anger is your biggest enemy, control it
  • When you let anger get the best of you it brings out the worst in you
  • Nobody makes you angry; you decide to use anger as a response (Brian Tracy)
  • It’s ok not to know but it’s not ok not to try
  • Just because you haven’t found your talent yet doesn’t mean you haven’t got one (Kermit the Frog)
  • Open your mind before you open your mouth
  • All things are difficult before they are easy
  • There is a big difference between expressing your opinion and being rude
  • It matters not what you are thought to be, but what you are (Publilius Syrus)

Some that your parents probably said to you that you may or may not want to start repeating:

  • Hold your horses
  • Pack up your bongos and let’s go (or was it just my Mum?)
  • Life is not fair
  • We don’t live in a tent
  • If ……. jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?
  • If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all
  • Are your legs broken?
  • What did your last slave die of?
  • Business before pleasure

Do you use any mottos with your children that I haven’t included here? If you let me know I’ll add them to the list for others to share.

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Consequences series – What? When? How? Part 4 First Time Obedience

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If you are new here, please have a browse through the first 3 posts in this series (part 1, part 2, part 3) before continuing on. For consequences to work effectively on your family, the foundations need to be in place, otherwise you will be running about cleaning up messes, rather than correcting the source of the problem.

We teach our children to obey for a number of reasons:

  • Physical safety (Will your child stop when you call them or run out into the road?)
  • The Bible instructs children to obey their parents and it is our responsibility to teach them to do so.   
  • Because we want our children to grow up wanting to love and obey God. God calls all of us to submit to His authority and to the authority He allows or places over us.  This applies to children also and the authority that God places over them is their parents. If they won’t obey their parents (whom they can see), it is less likely that they will obey God (whom they can’t see.)
  • It’s loving to do so (We obey God because we love Him.)
  • It helps our children grow in character, becoming those who bring pleasure to others around them.
  • It avoids anger and frustration in the parent that leads to escalation and inappropriate responses from us.

It is beyond the scope of the post to try and explain how to get first time obedience in your family. If you believe as I do that it is important enough to work on, there are some excellent resources available to help you in your journey.

  1. Growing Kids God’s Way courses from Growing Families International (US, Australia/New Zealand and other countries)
  2. Get hold of the Childwise books appropriate to the age of your child. See other titles at Growing Families US or Australia/New Zealand.
  3. Purchase a “First Time Obedience” chart and related downloadable audio sessions from Carla Link at Mom’s Notes. These are the best parenting resources. Well worth the money. Highly recommended. (No, I don’t get a commission 🙂 )
  4. This post at Large Families on Purpose is a good start if you are after a quick look at something to get you going.

I have not “arrived” when it comes to obedience. My children are far from perfect. And sadly, it is possible and even likely to achieve first time obedience with your children AND then lose it again over time! There are many factors at play here, from personality types, love languages, to parenting practice. But the job we have as Mothers and Fathers is the most important one in the world – one worth investing our time, energy and money into doing well, don’t you think?

 

Consequences Series – What? When? How? Part 3 Giving Instructions

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If you are new to this series of posts on consequences, please read through the introduction and part 2 first.

So you have layed a solid foundation of strong parenting practise and have made some headway to identifying the root cause(s) of your child’s problem areas. Before we take the leap to the consequences themselves, we need to take another look at ourselves. Yep, parenting is a lot about us, not just the children! This next step is to give instructions to our children correctly. It may seem very simple to just bark out orders and expect obedience, but there are things you can do to get a much higher level of obedience from your children simply by changing your approach. Have you ever been guilty of any of the following?

  • Giving an instruction that you are too tired to check up on and hoping your child will follow through.
  • Shouting instructions at rapidly retreating children’s backs as they tear off on their own pursuits.
  • Instructing a child while you are peering distractedly into the refrigerator, balancing morning tea in one hand and holding a spoon between your lips.
  • Directing instructions to a room full of children who are eating/playing or otherwise engaged that sound something like this – “Everyone, get you shoes, coats, hats, drink bottles, go to the toilet, pack your bag, make your bed, finish your morning jobs, find matching socks and be at the door in 5 minutes.”
  • Arriving home after everyone’s bed time and telling everyone to “Get ready for bed” as you walk in the door.

Perhaps these scenarios do not happen in your home but giving instructions across a crowded room or to an otherwise engaged child is just too easy to do and when we don’t get the obedience we are looking for we get angry, frustrated and disappointed in the child. Time to make some changes. Before you start work, you need to have a clear understanding for yourself of what obedience looks like. We teach our children that obedience is first time, straight away, with a happy attitude and a verbal response. (“Yes, Mum.”).

Step 1 Get hold of a “First Time Obedience” chart. It is a brilliant resource by Carla and Joey Link for teaching parents how to get first time obedience with their children.  It lays out all the steps in detail and tells you which behaviours to work on now, which ones to ignore for now and what the next step is. I thought I understood first time obedience until I listened to Carla’s talk Understanding First Time Obedience in her Mom’s Notes series but she really cleared it up for me. (It’s only $4.99 to download or get it if you are in the USA with the message, notes and chart for $12. In Australia, the charts are available here for $5 plus postage and download the MP3 message to go with it.) Her audio resources are gold and I cannot recommend them highly enough. (No, I don’t get a commission!)

Step 2 Train your child to come when you call their name, answering “Yes Mum, I’m coming” as they do in fact come. It’s a very simple step but if you want compliance you need to get attention first. A child who will not come when you call them is not likely to obey an instruction you give them either. To get this started we like to institute treat training. I gather everyone around me and tell them that we are going to play a game. I tell them that they all need to go to different parts of the house and when I call their names, they should answer with “Yes Mum, I’m coming” and come running back to me. I let them know that when they do come, I will have a little surprise for them. (Do it) Once everyone is back and all have their surprise, tell them you are going to do it again.

At this point they can’t believe how easy it is to get the reward! (Do it again.) Now instruct the children to go back to whatever it was you had them doing before and keep an ear out. Some time soon you will call their name and they need to answer with those same words and come. Leave it a short time and then repeat. Over the course of the day, repeat this procedure several times until everyone is coming running the second they hear you speak. You will be surprise to see how amazing their hearing is from even the furthest corner of the back garden to the back bedroom when you barely speak above a whisper. I even had children calling out “Yes Mum. I’m coming” when no names had been called or coming when someone else’s name had been called “Just in case you said mine and I missed it!”

The following morning start off the day with 1 repeat of the same scenario to remind them of how it worked. From this point onwards you can explain that there will be no more rewards, or perhaps only occasional rewards but they still need to come when you call and answer “Yes Mum I’m coming.” For those who are wondering, yes, this is a bribe but a useful one a short lived for training purposes. As a general rule, I am not characterised by bribing my children for obedience so the occasional instance that I decide to employ one is useful and effective. See this post for the difference between bribes, rewards and incentives and why you shouldn’t bribe your child.

If they refuse to come then a consequences will be necessary. For little ones, a few minutes sitting in their cots to get ready to obey, followed by putting them back where they were when you called and saying “Let’s try again” as you call their name will probably be enough. Older children may need some further encouragement but ideas for this will have to wait until we get further into the consequences side of this series!  

Step 3 Get eye contact. Holding a young child’s hand while you do this may help them. Instruct them to look at Mummy’s eyes or “look at Mummy’s face” and wait until they do so. There is a big difference between a child who struggles with eye contact – that is it is difficult for them to do – and a child who won’t make eye contact. The former is disobedience and the first is developmental. How do you tell the difference? Choose a short phrase like “Eyes” and simply prompt the child to look every time they look away. If you say “Eyes” and they look back at your eyes immediately then they have an obedient attitude and will get better in time. A child who deliberately turns their eyes away from you when instructed to look in you face is telling you that they have no intention of obeying your instruction and you may as well deal with the disobedience then and there rather than waiting for them to not follow the instruction you are about to give and then give a consequence.

One caveat with this is that children with processing disorders and other problems will find it almost impossible to hold their body still and focus their eyes on you. When they do, all of their energy is poured into doing this and there is no attention left to actually hear the instruction! The purpose of getting eye contact before speaking is to get the child’s attention. If you know that you have it, regardless of whether they are looking or not then you can go ahead. Just make sure this truly is something they are unable to do, rather something they choose not to do. Sometimes asking them to look at your chest will help.

Step 4 Give the instruction. Keep it simple for little ones. Give the number of steps your child can cope with. For some children, one thing at a time is enough. They may need to be told to “Get your drink bottle and come back to Mummy.” An older child may cope with a series of instructions, particularly if they are familiar to them. Some children may prefer a written list if there is a lot to get through. I sometimes jot a list on my whiteboard and instruct the older children to work their way through it before returning to me to let me know there are done.

Step 5 Have them respond with “Yes, Mum” after you give the instruction. Hearing themselves agree to obey is often enough to help a child follow through with obedience. Often a child who does not want to obey will refuse to say “Yes, Mum” and again, you deal with the disobedience then and there rather than after they fail to obey. A good strategy for children who struggle to follow through with instructions is to require them to repeat back to you what they are going to do. “Yes, Mum, I will get my drink bottle.” There is no way they can say they did not hear, did not understand or forgot. It’s clear-cut obedience or disobedience – so much easier to deal with.

This is a very simplified overview of the whole process. There is a lot of supporting “if, buts and maybe’s” that should be included, but that’s why there is a whole parenting course on this. (See the introduction post)

Involved? Yes! Time consuming? Yes! Effective? Yes!!

Consequences series – What? When? How? Part 2 Finding the cause

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So you have read through the consequences series introduction and your parenting “ducks” are all in a row. You’ve booked into a GFI parenting course, ordered some good quality parenting books, your husband/wife relationship is flourishing, your routine is on track, the children’s love tanks are full and you are training their hearts. With all this in place you have seen dramatic improvements in their behaviour and many of the problems you were dealing with previously have all but disappeared. And yet… there are still behaviours that need to be worked on!

Our children are sinful creatures (like us!) and yes, no matter how perfect your parenting is there will always be issues to deal with. Today we are going to take a brief look at finding the root cause of the problem, also know as the “besetting sin” or underlying cause that will help us to see where some of those behaviours are coming from.

Having a good understanding of basic personality types will help immensely as these are often very closely tied with the areas that our children struggle in. A highly choleric child will tend to be bossy and impatient, the sanguine child can be impulsive, disorganised and easily detracted, the phlegmatic child struggles with time management and diligence. While it is not helpful to put our children in a box as some critics would say, having some idea of their underlying motivations, needs and approach to life will help you to better parent them. My favourite book for those who have yet to explore this area is “Personality Plus” or “Personality Plus for Parents” by Florence Littauer. Who knows, you may have a whole new understanding of why and how you relate to your child as you do.

Secondly, grab hold of a list of character qualities or virtues. This will help you to categorize your children’s areas of struggles and start to see the connection between them. There is a free printable version here or here.

The “Working With Your Child’s Besetting sin” series of messages by Joey and Carla Link from Parenting Made Practical is brilliant for understanding and identifying your child’s personality type and working to improve their sin areas.  But I warn you, you will want to listen to the rest of the Mom’s notes series as they are the best parenting resource I have ever come across after the GFI parenting courses.

The idea of your child’s besetting sin or root of the misbehaviour is that many different wrongful behaviours can actually spring from the same underlying motivation or lack of character/virtue. The example Carla uses in her Mom’s notes message is that of patience. A child who constantly interrupts others when they are speaking, pushes past siblings to get out the door, shows frustration with anyone or anything that holds them up etc. is demonstrating a lack of patience. As a parent, you could come up with a bunch of different consequences to suit every different occasion that you see it demonstrated, but you really need only one – for the lack of patience itself – as this is the underlying cause or besetting sin.

So how do you start to find this common link between behaviours?

Sit down and make a list. List everything that your child does that you would consider less than virtuous! Once you have done this (and if they are anything like most children it will be quite a long list) take your character chart and note down next to each problem the character quality (virtue or vice) that they displayed. Perhaps they lack diligence, honesty or generosity? Sometimes it is easier to find the vice being displayed rather than the virtue and vice versa. Hopefully, by the time you have finished you will be starting to see a pattern. Maybe your toddler is simply showing a lack of self control and this is showing itself in a variety of ways. (Just a tip – most toddlers are lacking in self control and need to do lots of work in this area 😉 ) Perhaps an older child is not showing the responsibility necessary and appropriate for their age.

Once you have identified the areas you need to work on you have a starting point. Spending time actively working on the positive side of the vice is going to be vital. If your child is impatient then you need to be focussing on training them in patience, not just correcting for impatience. If they are lacking in responsibility then they are going to need lots of training and encouragement in this area. To ignore this training will mean that you are continuously ‘cleaning up’ the result of the lack of virtue but doing little to build the corresponding character that you want to see. Yes, there will be a place for correction (after all, that will be a major part of what this series of posts is all about!) however, without the balance you will be struggling uphill.

Consequences Series – What? When? How? (Introduction)

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Today is the beginning of a series springing from the discussions I have been having with the Mothers I meet with on a monthly basis. It is not meant to provide you with everything you need to know in order to discipline and train your child effectively, but will hopefully give interested parents some valuable advice and strategies for dealing with some of the more common battles we face with our children on a regular basis.

Consequences is a hot topic for many parents. We all want our children to obey, but if we jump straight to a whole bunch of punishments as our single and only method of achieving this then we are bound to fail. The consequences that we give our children should aim to achieve heart change, not just outward conformity. We can alter the behaviours that annoy us the most, but our aim should be to change the heart of the child, to train them in Godly character and prepare them for a relationship with God inasmuch as it is possible for us to do so.

So where do we start? Parenting is a multilayered affair and without a solid foundation underpinning the consequences we do use we will not achieve the best possible outcome. While just using our common sense will take us a long way, parenting is a difficult task and even the best of us can improve and develop our parenting skills.

As a first step I would recommend taking the Growing Kids God’s Way parenting course.(AustraliaUSA  and elsewhere.) There is so much to learn and know and while we can glean a tip here and there, a solid base is better laid with some intensive training.

Read some good quality parenting material. There is an abundance of parenting information out there and not all of it is good so again, I personally would recommend staring with gfi material. The Childwise series, Terrific Toddler books 1 & 2 and other gfi material contains a wealth of information to get you started. Check the gfi website in Australia and growing families USA for recommended titles.

Work on your husband/wife relationship. Without harmony in the home and parents who are on the same page, parenting will be an uphill battle. Use the concept of couch time from the gfi material, set a time to discuss your parenting together and make a plan of attack. Single/divorced/remarried parents can still work to achieve the best parenting practice possible within the situation they find themselves. Blending Families by the Book  is an excellent resource, as is the single parent supplement that goes with the Growing Kids God’s Way course.

You must be filling your children’s love tanks. Children will act out to gain attention/time/focus (even if it is negative) if they are not getting enough love in the way that they receive it. Different children have different love languages and different level of needs.) See Filling Their Love Tanks – The Five Love Languages of Children.

We need to train our children’s hearts, setting aside time to teach what we expect from them (proactive parenting) rather than simply reacting when they do something we don’t like. We need to work on their character and fill their moral warehouse by explaining the moral reason why for the instructions that we give.  We should be doing everything possible to prepare their hearts to know God.

It is essential to have a flexible, consistent routine in place. One that includes time where our children are with us and time where they are learning to play happily alone. A balanced routine will include activities that teach children to sit, focus and concentrate and involve only age-appropriate choices. Mum and Dad, not the child, should be in charge. Even babies need a good routine. 

So much of our success with parenting depends on us to begin with. How we give instructions plays a vital part in the level of obedience we will receive in return. How we respond when our children disobey and how we train them for future situations will help to determine the outcome of the battles we face repeatedly. It’s a tricky business but one that is worth pouring our time and energies into. I hope that the information today and in posts to come will help you on your parenting journey.

Sibling Relationships

We all want our children to get along and to enjoy being with each other. I would take that one step further and say that I’d like them to develop life-long friendships and to be each other’s best friends throughout the childhood years. So what is our role in this process? Throwing them together and hoping for the best is unlikely to yield the outcome we are looking for, so some proactive parenting is necessary. Here are some specific steps we can take as parents to help siblings develop close relationships.

Have a routine. Too much time together, particularly unstructured time, is a recipe for conflict. Nerves become frayed and patience short. Think about the time of day that siblings play together. If they are tired and hungry things are unlikely to go well. The length of time is important. Wind it up while everyone is still having fun. Finish on a positive note rather than waiting until play turns sour.

Refer to them as best friends. Tell children regularly that they are each other’s best friends. Talk about how other friends will come and go but brothers and sisters will always be there for each other. Ask them if they are treating their sibling as a best friend should.

Supervise sibling play times. If children are not getting along well then they should not be given the freedom of unsupervised play together. Mum or Dad need to be within earshot and ready to step in before a situation blows up into a conflict. If you can hear a problem brewing and fail to do something about it then you as a parent are partly responsible for it. There is a place when children are older to let conflict run it’s course and give them the opportunity to use the conflict resolution skills you are teaching them. If they are never tested or given the opportunity to do what is right, then they will not be able to grow in this area. Be wise with this though.

Good modelling. Older children should be regularly reminded of their responsibility to be a good role-model. Even young children are a role-model if there is a younger sibling behind them or to friends outside of the immediate family. Teach children about good leadership; learning when to follow a good leader and when to be a good leader.

Non-conflict training. The majority of your training should be in times of non-conflict, rather than in the heat of the moment. Take time to teach Godly character. Act out and work through common conflict scenarios. Role-play conflict resolution and negotiation skills. Teach specific phrases for dealing with conflicts the children are likely to face; turn- taking for example.

Personality Types. Spend time teaching your children about the different personality types. Help them to identify their character strengths and weaknesses and to work on improving those weaknesses. Help them to understand each other better and relate with other’s needs in mind.

Dominion. All children need to have personal dominion over something. Special toys that are theirs alone and that they are not required to share is an excellent way of allowing them to exercise this dominion. Toys that they are not prepared to share should as a general rule not be used during playtimes together. If a sibling wishes to use that particular toy they must ask first and respect the answer given.

Memorise scriptures that relate to the conflicts they often face, such as “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” Ask children what God says about a particular behaviour? Make sure that children know the moral reason why. Read about sibling rivalry and its result in the bible. For example, Joseph and his brothers Gen 37 and Jacob & Esau Gen 25-27.

No means no. Teach children to respect another person’s “no” or “stop.” From a very young age we teach our children to stay “Stop please” when they do not like the play that is going on. They are expected to listen and stop the first time they hear those words. This includes parents and applies to wrestling, tickling, chasing and any other fun game. Children soon learn not to say “Stop please”unless they mean it as our play immediately halts. We avoid just “no” or “don’t” because children often shout those in fun when it is clear they do want the tickling to continue. “Stop please” is not something they would normally say unless they actually mean it.

Conflict resolution. Once a conflict between young children has occurred, walk through from the beginning and model the correct things to say. Ask older children what they should have said and then have them go ahead and say it. Require younger children to repeat the appropriate words after you. Give children specific strategies to address issues they face such as using a timer for turn-taking.

Pow-wow time. Older children can be asked to sit together to talk through the problem calmly and quietly until they reach a compromise that both parties are happy with. Some time apart to calm down may be necessary first. There is to be no yelling, raised voices or unkind words. This works best when a parent steps in before a conflict has had a chance to escalate into something serious. The solution decided on should be bought before the parent to ensure it is fair and equitable, otherwise one child may always assume the “peacemaker” role by simply giving in to their more forceful sibling in order to get the problem sorted out and move on. That is not a fair and suitable compromise. Watch out for older children manipulating younger ones. Both parties should be satisfied with the solution.

Justice and judgment. Teach children that if they are unable to resolve a conflict by themselves they should come to a parent. The idea that children need to just “work it out” is a faulty one. It leads to older, physically stronger or more dominant personality children always getting their own way and unpleasant character traits developing. “Might makes right” becomes the order of the day and good relationships will not be the result.

When someone has been wronged, you as the judge should listen to both sides of the argument. Have one child speak at a time with a calm voice – no interrupting. If there are tears, whining or loss of emotional control in any way, they may need a few moments to sit alone and regain their self-control before bringing the matter before you. Children should be expected to have taken steps themselves to work out the problem before coming to you. Pray for wisdom. The children may be able to come up with a solution themselves or need you to supply one.

When emotions are running high, it may work better to separate the children and hear one side of the story at a time without the other person participating initially. Sometimes this allows children to be more honest about their fault in the situation and what they need to do to make it right.

Telling tales. The difference between tale-telling, tattling or dobbing and sincere reporting of a problem for mediation is all in the attitude. If damage to person or property will occur they should be able to come immediately. The first step is to encourage the other sibling in right behaviour. When the intent is clearly to get another sibling into trouble, rather than a sincere effort to solve the problem, the tale-teller receives the consequence that would otherwise have been given to the offending child. When children first come to you they should be asked whether they have tried to encourage their sibling to do right and also whether they have done all that they can to resolve the problem first. “What have you tried to make this right?” is a good start.

Isolation. Children, especially older children, may need some time to work through the problems alone before coming back together to talk it through with the other party. Ask them to think through their responsibility in the situation, whether they have treated their sibling as a best friend and what God’s word has to say about it.

Physical touch. Hugging or shaking hands when the matter is resolved melts the tension and helps to repair friendships. Verbal forgiveness needs to be asked for and given. Shaking hands afterwards often helps children to break through that last barrier of unresolved anger or hard feelings towards their sibling. While children can forgive someone without hugging or shaking, often this physical contact will get them smiling at each other again.

Forgiveness and restitution. Saying “sorry” is for accidents, not for deliberate acts of unkindness. If the wrong was intentional then forgiveness is needed. Model this by asking for forgiveness yourself when you are in the wrong. Children are very forgiving and LOVE it when a parent apologizes and asks them for forgiveness. If something has been destroyed, taken or otherwise damaged, restitution or “paying back” must be made. A child who has knocked over another child’s tower can build it back up. A child who has drawn in a sister’s book can use their pocket-money to buy another one.

Consequences. Clear consequences for wrong behaviour should be given and acted upon consistently. Some examples of consequences for unkind behaviour are acts of service, losing the opportunity to play together and saying 3 nice things about the other person’s character – not physical features. See spoiled walls.

Reinforcement. Character reinforcement systems may be useful to jumpstart the process. Praise good behaviour and character when children do the right thing; catch them being good. Use specific praise that clearly labels what it is they are doing well. You may like to temporarily introduce a marble jar, praise plate, or treasure tree system.

The sorting out prayer is useful for the wronged child to work through and helps them to forgive their sibling. Based on biblical instruction, it is something we will introduce as the children get older and have to deal with more weighty situations.

“If… then…” charts are good for clear consequences. Take the time to write them up with the children’s help and refer to them when a problem occurs.

Resources:

I have linked to The Book Depository when products are available through them as that is the cheapest source for Australia in most cases. Other sources as stated.

Personality Plus: How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself


For general personality information and identification see Personality Plus by Florence Littauer.

Personality Plus for Parents

Personality Plus for Parents is by the same author with more information specifically for parents.

Spirit-Controlled Temperament

Spirit Controlled Temperament is a Christian take on the 4 temperaments and how the Holy Spirit can help us overcome our inbuilt weaknesses and improve our strengths.

Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends: How to Fight the Good Fight at Home

Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends is a good tool for teens to read through either by themselves or with you, with time to discuss each chapter together.

Proverbs for parenting is an excellent resources for finding what the bible has to say about parenting related topics with Proverbs sorted into easy to reference categories.

 The Power of True Success How to build character in your life.

A good resource for the Christian family for teaching character to children.

Mom's Notes Volume 3 - Notes in Binder

Dealing with sibling conflict by Joey & Carla Link is a topic from the Moms Notes.  These are an excellent resource for all things parenting. Very detailed with ideas for all ages. Brilliant but it is pricey. Audio CDs also available.

For Instruction In Righteousness

For Instructions in Righteousness Pam Forster is another character training resource with bible verses, stories and other ideas for training and building character into your children. (Also available at Heart and Home Bookstore in Australia.)

Four Chart Special

The Brother offended checklist and booklet and If..Then Chart are helpful in the thick of dealing with conflict. Great to take children straight to to help work through their conflicts with a biblical framework. Available separately or in a set at Heart and Home and Doorposts.

Parents Arise

Janine Targett’s book Parents Arise and scripture CDs show you how to use God’s word to overcome character weaknesses amongst other things. This is the source of the “sorting out prayer.”

Spoiled walls – bickering and sibling conflict

Bickering and nitpicking between siblings – it wears me down and spoils my day. I know they love each other, but some days the love is just not shining through. We all need long-term strategies that seek to address the underlying character issues in our children and must be constantly working on relationship building, loving God and each other and following the biblical mandates regarding speech, tone, building each other up and the like. There are times though, that a well-directed consequence is called for. I need consequences that I can consistently apply whether I am busy or not, repeat over and over, don’t require a heap of supervision and most of all, are effective in addressing the issue.

I recently sat the children down and had a little chat about the unkind speech that was being heard between them. We discussed how that made them feel, what we wanted our family to be like, read some relevant bible verses and then I made up my own little mini metaphor. I asked them to picture a freshly painted wall. How nice and crisp and fresh it looked and how pleasing it was to look at. I then asked them to picture the same wall with dirty fingerprints and food splashes all over it. We talked about how the dirt spoiled the wall in the same way that the unkind words spoiled their friendships.

I let that sink in for a moment or two before informing them that from now on, at the first sign of unkind speech or bickering, the offending child would be given a spray bottle and cleaning cloth to wash down a section of wall. As they cleaned, they can think about “washing” the dirt out of their relationship by replacing their unkind words with words that build others up.

It’s an instant consequence and is easy to enforce. The bickering siblings are separated for a while (which usually helps in itself) and something useful is getting done at the same time. I love it! The only problem is that the clean wall sections make the rest of the wall look even worse… Oh well, I’m sure there will be plenty more occasions that wall cleaning is called for.

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