Sibling rivalry is natural for kids. We believe children are innocent through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, but “when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts” (Moses 6:55). It's true that children can be delightful, loving, and sweet, but they can also be petty, selfish, and demanding. And it's up to us as adults to teach them the way of the Lord.
I am so passionate about this. Seriously- my greatest desire right now is to have a contention-free home. Unrealistic? Maybe- but I can still hope, right? In fact, for every Christmas or Birthday or Mother's Day gift- when the kids ask me what I want, each time I say, "PEACE."
So yesterday when Jakey found out that Mother's day was coming up soon he looked up at me with a twinkle in his eye and said,
"Mommy, for mudders day, "I'm gonna give yew peas."
When we allow contention in our homes, it negates everything we try to do as mothers. We work so hard to create this warm and loving atmosphere. We try to keep our homes clean and orderly and pleasant for those we love. And we try to teach our children true principles and instill proper values in them. But if the spirit of the Lord is not present- what's the point? Without the spirit, our teaching does very little to help children. The Holy Spirit is the great teacher. The Holy Spirit carries truth to their hearts- and helps them develop their own testimony. And our kids will need strong convictions about the truth as we send them off into the world.
We know something about where contention comes from...
For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. (3 Nephi 11:29)
The adversary (Satan) wants to create discord in our homes. He attempts to destroy the most precious of all relationships in an effort to make us miserable like himself. And we are actually serving him when we argue!
Ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, . . . he being an enemy to all righteousness (Mosiah 4:14).
Yeah- he may be trying to destroy my family. But I will not give up this fight. I am determined to teach my children to get along and love each other.
Thankfully we've been blessed with the ultimate parent how-to guide when problems arise. The scriptures have the answers to all our parenting questions. The Lord created our children. He knows them better than we do and He knows how to help us reach them! But it's up to us to turn to Him and ask for guidance- and recognize we can't do this alone. He will lead us to the answers that He's already given us in His word. There are thousands of parenting books out there- and many are wonderful. But they have different philosophies- and often contradictory information based on the latest study. And the recommendations often change with societal norms. But we have a timeless parenting manual... and the author is God himself. What a blessing!
In my experience, these are some principles that I have found to be true (Unfortunately, I've learned the hard way on most of these):
This DOES NOT work:
Lecturing/Nagging- It belittles our children, sends the message that they can't think for themselves, and it rarely reaches their hearts. Basically- it's ineffective.
And, ye afathers, bprovoke not your cchildren to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
This can also provoke children to feelings of anger and defensiveness. But when we nurture them in the ways of the Lord and gently teach them- it allows the spirit to speak the truth to their hearts.
Yelling- The scriptures teach that a soft answer turneth away wrath. (Proverbs 15:1) It's hard to supress our own anger and frustration with our children- especially when they are disobedient and bickering. But we are the adults, right? They are looking to us to be the example. I find that I must prepare myself each day spiritually- and take the time to be at peace within before my kids wake up. That might include prayer and scripture study, uplifting music, exercise, or whatever I need to do to be the stable and calm mother my kids deserve.
Stepping in/ Being the judge- As we try to determine who was the offender and who was right during an argument, it only seems to create jealousy and blaming and more rivalry among our children. I think it's best to allow them the opportunity to work things out. If we step in every time to solve all their problems, they'll never learn how to get along without us.
Punishments- only causes more friction in the home and often resentment toward the parent.
I love this scripture about parenting:
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood (or parenthood), only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
"By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile— D&C 121:41
This DOES work: (Well, kids still have their choice of course, but these principles will give them the best chance of success!)
Example- As much as I'd love to leave this one off the list, I know how important this is. When I'm stressed out or have a short temper, my children feel the tension and they often react accordingly. It's actually a little scary to realize how much influence our attitude can have on them. But we can choose to be a role model of positivity and love- despite our moods and/or circumstances.
Prevention: When our family is consistently praying together, studying scriptures, and holding regular FHE (family home evening) there is much more peace in our home and our kids are much more likely to get along. I know these practices foster unity among us, and increase the spirit of reverence in our home.
I also love this promise from Marion G. Romney (a former church leader):
Another practical tip about prevention- We need to be aware of when and what our kids argue about, and try to find ways around it. For example, we used to have plates for the kids in all different colors. For some reason everyone wanted the green one. (Don't ask me why) And they would argue over it almost every time we had dinner. So I got sick of it- so I gave those away- and bought all white bowls. Also each kid has an assigned seats, and their own day to say the prayer, etc- you get the idea. In other words- we can look for simple solutions to prevent contention in our homes.“I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein.
“The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase.
“Faith, hope, and charity – the pure love of Christ – will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness".
Look for the Good!- It's so important to catch our kids getting along with each other. Notice it- and reinforce that behavior with praise, affection, and other rewards.
Teach them to apply the Gospel of Jesus Christ- This is not the same as preaching. We need to help them understand the effect of their behavior on others. We can teach them about Christ and His life of love and sacrifice. We can teach them about repentance, and the importance of prayer. One idea is to pray with our children- individually. Recently, the kids were fighting over a toy, and one of them lashed out and was really upset. So I took him to another room to pray. Just him and me. I asked him to offer the prayer- he didn't want to, but I waited on my knees until he offered it. Finally, his heart softened, he repented, and love and unity was restored.
Love and Serve one another-
But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another. (Mosiah 4:15.)
Here's another idea- Give them all cut-out hearts and have them do a chore, or write a note, or any kind act of service for someone in the family and leave the heart behind as a token of their love.
So maybe they really are learning something.
My hope is that these teachings will sink into their hearts-
so we can live in