#6 Minimize sibling rivalry. One of the values in our home when the kids were young was to go beyond just teaching our children to “get along”. We wanted to stretch them to the next level of actually enjoying and being an encouragement to each other. We did this through a variety of approaches; all designed to take the offensive in minimizing sibling rivalry.
First, we emphasized generosity over fairness in our home. We wore out the Quigley Village VCR tape of the parable of the landowner who hired laborers at different times of the day and then paid them each the same amount. The parable ends with the landowner saying, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” (Mt 20:15). This emphasis on generosity over fairness took the wind out of so many situations where kids are apt to complain, “That’s not fair!”
Now, of course, we were not arbitrary or willy-nilly about dealing out privileges. At least once a Christmas season we spent a late night with all the children’s gifts laid out on the bed asking each other, “Do things look equal?” But at the same time, we had many situations that required flexibility. And because we were not locked into a fairness mindset these issues could be addressed with what was appropriate at the moment. For example, all of our kids did not receive their driver’s license on their sixteenth birthday as there were many individual aspects of that decision that came into play each time it was approached.
This emphasis on generosity over fairness removed some of the natural drivers that promote sibling rivalry. But don’t forget the generosity piece. It is the practice of generosity in our homes that makes our child’s natural concern about fairness diminish in importance.
Another thing we did to attack arguing or strife among our kids was a money exchange. Each child had a cup of coins ranging from quarters for the oldest to nickels for the youngest. When some argument between the kids escalated to complaining to Mom, she calmly listened. Then, because most cases don’t have a clear guilty party, she asked them to exchange coins from their cups. This put the larger incentive on the older child to resolve their differences which makes sense since they are expected to be the more mature sibling. It also fit the idea we have written about here of the older children being the pacesetter for the younger.
The goal here is the life long potential of siblings appreciating each other. And what evolved out of these efforts and God’s blessing was true friendship between our children. When it comes to sibling rivalry, the bottom line for us was to be forward thinking and find creative ways to stop it early. Being on top of the sibling rivalry challenges in your home does not mean being the rivalry cop who comes down on every situation. In fact, as you can see from the money exchange, we encouraged our kids to resolve their differences without us policing every issue. By God’s gift, the result for us has been a “rare and beautiful treasure” of family friendship.