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Combat Fatigue

How do I curb the competition with my kids?

Q. My three kids just can't get along! They're always teasing, tattling, or fighting with each other. Since they're each only two years apart, they tend to be competitive. So if I do something for one kid, or grant permission for some activity, another will say, "How come so-and-so gets to do this and I don't?" It's fatiguing and frustrating!

A. Believe me, my three kids are the same way! I can offer two thoughts, one that's helped my kids, and one that simply helps me.

First, I've come to realize that 90 percent of what my kids argue about is stupid stuff that doesn't even matter to them. What matters to them is fighting about it. With that in mind, I've found it helps simply to try to make them laugh and then "just let it go" (my daily "mantra").

For example, one day my girls were bickering about something silly, so I interrupted them and announced, "All that squabbling is not music to my ears. So I want you both to go into the bathroom and don't come out until you've put your disagreement to music."

They thought I'd lost my marbles. But I insisted, and within five minutes they were giggling behind closed doors. After 15 minutes, they were in the kitchen performing their song, complete with hand motions. As you can guess, the disagreement was forgotten.

This trick can be as easy as making them stand toe-to-toe or shout to each other 20 times, "I love you, and you're my best friend." Hey, I've even used their plastic toy handcuffs to bind them together long enough to discover they really can get along. Talk about a good laugh!

But the thing that's helped me the most with their sibling rivalry has been an attitude adjustment—mine! I once heard a Christian radio-show guest explain that the family is a microcosm of all relationships. I realized relationships are some of the hardest things with which adults have to deal. So every time my children fight with each other, speak unkindly, or treat my authority with disrespect, I have an opportunity to teach them how to navigate future relationships. What a privilege God's given me as a parent!

LISA WHELCHEL is the author of Creative Correction (Focus on the Family), So You're Thinking About Homeschooling (Multnomah), and the founder of MomTime Get-A-Ways. She and her husband, Steve, have three children. E-mail your parenting questions for Lisa to parentingfeedback@christianitytoday.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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