The dog days of summer are upon us. Bedtimes are irrelevant. Kitchen counters are slightly sticky due to left behind snippets of Freezer Pop wrappers. Freckles are in full bloom. The cicadas serenade us with their song as we enjoy our evening strolls. And three digit temperatures are as typical as siblings fighting with one another. You can safely predict every day for the rest of the summer- it’s going to be ridiculously hot, and your kids are going to get under each other’s skin, which will inevitably get under your skin.
When children are spending the majority of the day with their siblings someone is going to get left out, ideas are going to be rejected, nerves are going to be got on, toys are going to be fought over, wills are going to be strong, and voices are going to be heard.
Let’s be real. No parent enjoys listening to their children fight or spending the majority of their day refereeing. It’s as exhausting as a day at the water park. But this is just part of summer, right? We can endure six more weeks of tattling, crying, and being snappy at our kids because they are being snappy with each other, right? Sure. We can grin and bear it OR we can make a slight adjustment that has the power to change the course of the summer. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to head into the school year on a high-note, wishing summer didn’t fly by so fast.
Now, about this slight adjustment. It has to do with our motives. A few weeks ago, all three of my kids burst into my bedroom to tell me how frustrated they were with one another. Feelings were hurt, tears were flowing, and I felt like I was putting out the same fire I put out yesterday, and the day before, and the day before the day before. For some reason forcing apologies and telling them to be nice for the umpteenth time wasn’t working. Sigh. As I exasperatedly built a case for why they had to get along, the Holy Spirit took over. The next thing I knew, I had my Bible out on the bed, searching through the gospels for the great and supreme commandment. My motive for desiring them to get along shifted. It went from not wanting them to be an annoyance to me to wanting them to do what was right in the sight of God.
Matthew 22:38-39 You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
My husband had them read it and pointed out that it was printed in red ink, meaning Jesus spoke those words while he was still on the earth. They know this verse, and for the most part, they are pretty good at loving their neighbor. I have witnessed how sweet they are to their friends at school or church- their cousins or kids they’ve never met before at the park, but somewhere along the line they unconsciously decided that the word “neighbor” doesn’t apply to siblings.
Neighbor means someone close by. When you’re growing up, there’s no one closer by than your siblings. They share a roof with you and in our daughters’ case, a room! We explained to our kids that Jesus commanded, not suggested, but commanded them to love each other as they love themselves or as the amplified version says it, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others.
We reread the verse, but swapped out a word; “Love your siblings as yourself.” We talked about what that looked like practically and gave them a chance to communicate their frustrations with one another. They quickly recognized that refusing to lower the basketball goal so little sister could shoot for a bit was not loving their sibling as they love their self. Or that continuing to draw with sidewalk chalk under the basketball goal when older bother is trying to play was not loving their sibling as they love their self. I could see light bulbs turning on and hearts shifting. We ended the discussion by asking them to share a few things they admire about one another. It was the sweetest thing. They were not only reminded of their value but also how blessed they are to have such amazing siblings.
I haven’t had to put a fire out since that night. The entire atmosphere of our home changed. Like drastically changed. Like, “Babe, are you seeing this?”, kind of a change. Defenses are down, and patience is up. Instead of asking them to get along, I have to ask them to quiet down because they are playing together and playing together LOUDLY. But I’ll take that over bickering any day. They haven’t been perfect, but when I see them drift a little, I simply ask them, “Are you loving your sibling as you love yourself?” And the Holy Spirit does the rest.
I know this seems almost TOO easy, but I encourage you to try it. I believe our kids can see through our motives. And when they see that we’re only motivated to get them to be kind to each other, so they don’t bother us, that doesn’t inspire them. But, if they see that we’re motivated to get them to be kind to each other because we desire to see them walk in the good plans that God has for them, they rise to the occasion.
A Kingdom perspective makes everything better. Now go and thoroughly enjoy those kids and the second half of summer!