Parenthood is a stewardship from God. As their Heavenly Parent, He loves our children even more and far better than we do. No wonder He is always available to offer inspiration when we need it! God endows parents with power from on high, and the Lord expects us to use that power carefully…which also means prayerfully. As a young mother, I was taught that wise parenting could decrease sibling rivalry among my children. Here are three examples of inspiration that helped me behave in a way that did not obstruct the close relationships my adult children enjoy today:
** On Sharing: Sharing jointly-owned items was only fair; our children understood that. Forced sharing of personal belongings, however, nibbled at their friendship, so I adjusted. I still encouraged sharing their things (explaining that generosity made Heavenly Father happy, would make them feel good, and might even be returned in kind), but the sharing itself became optional. If a child received a new game or treat, sharing was recommended, not required. Why? Because forced sharing wedged my children apart. It also gave them a sense of entitlement to everything the other had, teaching them nothing internally about respecting the rights/belongings of others, employing the art of friendly negotiation, or doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Once left to their own devices in the matter (gloating was still not allowed!), they did find their way, learning to share because they wanted to be shared with. What’s more, their autonomous offering came from the heart. Freely given, it forged feelings of attachment rather than resentment. The real sharing began when we left a space for that impulse to grow. (Creating natural incentives for kids to use their own, internal process in well-doing works better than fostering patterns where their best behavior relies on external motivators. Goodness really is its own reward, as is generosity, but it’s harder to let that truth in when it’s forced upon you.)
2* On Discipline: Sibling friendships take root when parents uproot preferential treatment. Children must be equally accountable under parental law, with discipline applied even-handedly. In one common dynamic, the oldest is selectively punished for acting out when the youngest has been tormenting him. Does being the only one to get in trouble when the blame is on both sides foster affection on the part of the older sibling? Hardly. Perceived injustice is no breeding ground for good feeling, and wrongdoing usually exists on both sides of a fight. Kids are adept at hiding their taunts and goads toward one another, so unless I had seen every part of what happened and could identify a definite culprit, I punished both children involved in a quarrel, telling them they would not be allowed to play with each other or whatever toys were involved until they could work things out peaceably. They were then separated and sent to their rooms to “think about it.” The toy did not reappear for a while. Over time, they realized getting along was in their best interests, fighting was not, and much could be gained (and avoided!) by working things out together rather than inviting parental interference. Instant bonding!
3* On Favoritism: Never show it. And if you feel it, pray to have it removed from your heart. Don’t compare your children to one another, ever––not verbally and not in your thoughts. Accept them as unique individuals and respect them in their differences. Love them for the people they are. Resist having a culture in your family where certain talents, abilities or even hobbies are ranked as being more worthy than others. And remember, showing such preference doesn’t have to be overt. It doesn’t even have to be verbalized. Children are highly perceptive, readily sensing what parents think and feel about them. Making sure your heart is in the right place for each child will do more towards allowing them to be friends than nearly anything else. Not getting enough unconditional love from parents fosters the “less than” mentality that breeds a spirit of competition rather than friendship among children. Few children will feel kindly toward a sibling who is receiving more than his or her share of attention and approval from parents. And in situations where no child is getting “enough,” the scramble for favor can get pretty brutal. The Lord does not play favorites or withhold love. Neither should we.
Remember, parent power can be used for good or ill, so make sure yours is working for you…and your kids! Families whose parents pray, receive inspiration, and act upon it will be blessed. “Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another...”
A mother of four and grandmother to three (with a couple in the works), Sue blogs at Sue's News, Views 'n Muse. She also maintains a website of her original poetry, Susan Noyes Anderson Poems. Sue is the author of three books entitled At the End of Your Rope, There's Hope (Deseret Book), Awaken Your Spiritual Power (Karisma Press) and His Children (Vantage-point press) and has placed work in numerous anthologies and magazines, including The Ensign. Trained in family counseling, she has worked with both individuals and families.Sue =)
Be sure to check out Cranial Hiccups today for another post on the Family Proclamation and link-up your own posts about The Family Proclamation below!