Updated: May 8, 2021
The sibling relationship is wrought with conflict (Proverbs 17:17). If you have a brother or sister you probably remember times of struggle. I've long maintained that the single best preparation for marriage (living forever with someone different from us) is having siblings. We live for years with this person and have to learn how to share space and time without wanting to send them to Siberia.
Siblings fight about everything from injustice (even if it's only a perceived injustice), parental love and attention, rights, stuff, privacy, friends, food...pretty much anything in their world!
Some parents intentionally pit one child against another in an effort to get them to fight for themselves. We see this when parents say, "Jose, you know you can run faster than your brother. Show him how it's done."
Others may unintentionally compare them, thus fostering a sense of sibling competition. This happens with statements like, "Jane would have gotten an A on that paper. What happened?"
However it happens, instilling a sense of competition is not always a good plan. While it may serve some purposes, studies show siblings already feel a sense of competition without our "help."
The best thing we can do as parents is to encourage our children to be the people God made them to be (Jeremiah 1:5). His plan for them rests on the gifts He knit together in each child (Jeremiah 29:11). Foster those gifts and they will be much more confident, likely to find God's path for them, and less likely to fight with a sibling to be seen as "special." Rather, each will know that they bring something unique to every situation. That knowledge can (eventually) lead them to work together instead of against each other. Even if it doesn't we aren't out anything to encourage them to be who God created them to be (Psalm 139:14).
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I love this book. James Dobson does a great job presenting the balance of encouragement and discipline in the framework of God's love.
I love Gary Chapman's 5 Love Language books and this one is no different. Backed by scientific research these ideas can truly impact how we connect with our children.