If you have a sibling or children of your own, you know all about sibling rivalry. Sibling rivalry is as old as Cain and Abel.
It starts young and continues to grow until it's dealt with—if it ever is. I wonder how many spats Cain had with Abel in their younger years, how many rolls in the dirt vying for control. Did Adam and Eve just laugh and say, "Boys will be boys"? How many weeks, months, or even years did Cain spend silently seething before he snapped and decided Abel's more perfect offering to God was the last straw?
With two sisters and one brother, I've experienced my share of sibling rivalry. Now that we're adults the rivalry is virtually nonexistent. Occasionally it will threaten to rear its ugly head, but we won't allow it. We've come to see the value of family. Thankfully, our parents never excused our behavior with "kids will be kids."
Now that I have four kids of my own, I know I can't take sibling rivalry lightly. Left unchecked, it can have detrimental effects on the whole family, even for future generations.
The following six biblical principles are time-tested ways we can train our children to conquer sibling rivalry:
"Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12). What does honoring your parents have to do with sibling rivalry? Everything. It is honoring to parents when children recognize the value of their siblings and strive to have good relationships with them.
Even young children can be taught this concept. As parents we can require respectfulness among all family members and refuse to play favorites among children or compare one to another. Even as adults we are honoring our aging parents when we treat our siblings well, setting the example for our children to follow.
"Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39). Yes, even our siblings are considered our "neighbors," and we are expected to treat them fairly and with dignity. Unfortunately, in many families outsiders and even strangers are treated better than members of the same family. Perhaps it is because we know each other so well that our sense of injustice and unfairness runs so deep and we ultimately lash out at the very ones we love so much. We must help our children see that their siblings are also made in the image of God and to appreciate their uniqueness.
For Further StudyDownloadable resources to go deeper
- Carolyn Custis James: What It Means to Be a Woman in MinistryeBook Format Available! Author and speaker Carolyn Custis James offers leadership insights for women.