Browsing Tag



3 Ways to End Sibling Bickering

February 12, 2014



Our kids in the 10th hour of a 12-hour car trip!

My wife Bonnie and I were talking on the phone the other day, and it was hard to talk over the bickering that was blasting from the back seats. “Wow,” I said, “they’ve really developed some bad communication habits.” She laughed. “Communication habits!? They fight non-stop!” She decided to do some research. Here are a few things she found that brought a little mini-van heaven.

Be a thermostat rather than a thermometer

The source of bickering actually starts with us. Kids are sponges. As parents we have to model peaceful presence and healthy conflict resolution skills. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18). Are we modeling a peaceful presence or an anxious one? Both transfer easily without a word spoken. It’s good to start with a self-inventory and make sure that we are modeling a peaceful presence to our kids.

Give individual time to each child every day

Spend at least 10 minutes of uninterrupted time with each child. Take turns choosing the activity. The goal is simply connection. It will serve as a “release valve” for your child if a strong attachment is there. It’s good to remember that we can’t deal with correction well when there are gaps in our attachment. Here, I draw from a principle that is often applied to marriages: weak attachment rather than poor conflict skills are the source of our problems. A child who feels love and significance is generally more cooperative and open to your redirection. As you keep pouring into their “love banks,” you will help deflate the need to get attention in negative ways.

Start a “compromise jar”

Enlist them into the change process. Positive incentives and behavioral reinforcement have their place. Here’s a good one! Whenever we see our kids arguing over something that they should be able to resolve, we remind them that if they work together to solve it, we’ll put a coin in the compromise jar. At the end of the month, they get to decide together how to spend the money. Our kids are saving up to spend an hour at our local trampoline park. Sometimes we have to intervene and help shape the process, but we do so as little as possible. If one child is undermining the process, he or she has to “invest in the fund” from his or her own spending money. Our kids have done remarkably well with it. It’s cut off many of the fights at the pass. When the children complain, we simply remind them of the compromise jar, and they get busy working on a solution.

Any other ideas? Please share!

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The One Thing You Must (Not) Do When Disciplining

February 12, 2014

I Can Make This Face...

“Shame on you!” Have you ever heard that phrase? We were at Busch Gardens recently, and a young boy next to us was having a meltdown. His father was extremely frustrated and started yelling at him, “Is this really who you are? You’re such a baby. Shame on you!” The father had good intentions. He was trying to motivate his son to make better choices. The subtext of his comments was, “This isn’t who you are; this decision runs contrary to who you are.” That’s not what his son heard, though.

The one thing we must not do when we’re trying to discipline (‘disciple,’ ‘teach’) our child and our emotions are starting to red line is to shame him or her. Shaming a child is a common, oftentimes instinctive, but also highly destructive form of discipline.

Here are some examples of shaming:

The put-down or name-calling: “You’re such a baby.” “You’re so selfish.”

Moralizing: “Oh, I thought you were a good girl. Good girls don’t do that…”

Comparison: “Why can’t you act more like your sister.” “None of the other children act like you do.”

What’s the real danger of shame?

Shame is a word that almost defies definition. Its root word means “to cover.” In the Scriptures, you’ll often find the verb “to cover” in front of the word “shame.” Psalm 109:29 says, “May my accusers be clothed with disgrace and wrapped in shame as in a cloak.” Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to the Him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame.”

Shame is a covering.

It is also one of Satan’s deadliest weapons because it paralyzes you. It insulates you from God’s grace. You might hear about God’s grace, even believe it’s possible for others, but not you—you’re dis-graced, which is a synonym for shame. You’re immune to God’s attempts to redeem and heal your past. You’re protected from the truth of His word, shielded from God’s blessing and calling on your life.

To understand the damage of shame in parenting, we need to look deeper than the goal of good behavior. If we think the punishment “worked” because it changed what the child was doing, we’ve severely limited our view of healthy discipline. It’s important to distinguish shame-based conformity with morally-motivated behavior. A child might have “good manners” and be highly compliant, but it could be coming from a toxic source: fear and shame. Two common responses to shame are self-hatred and rebellion.

What are some good alternatives to shaming responses? 

Look below the behavior:

Behavior is a form of communication for kids. They will often act out what they can’t verbalize. What’s the real issue that needs to be addressed? How can the needed correction take place without losing the connection?

Clear, consistent, and understood boundaries:

Respectful boundary setting implies a strong statement about you, as opposed to a negative statement about the child. Address the issue, affirm their intrinsic goodness, and speak into existence what you want to see changed.


Grace and shame occupy the same space. One drives out the other. When we live by grace, we become conduits of it. The same is true for shame. Ask God to reveal any shame that is keeping His grace from reaching your heart. Ask Him to help you distinguish His voice from all other voices—to discern truth from lies.

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