More pondering on sharing since my last post on this topic. I appreciated Molly’s comment about how squabbling over toys seems to occur more often between her sons when she is distracted. That definitely resonated with me. She said: “I wonder how much of their motive when not sharing is selfishness versus acting out for attention from me.”
It’s definitely true that all manner of misbehavior, grabbiness being high on the list, occurs in our house when I am not attending carefully to my children. Some misbehavior may well be to get my wandering attention; some of it may be that the lack of close oversight inflames naughtiness. Elizabeth Krueger of Raising Godly Tomatoes asks this of a mother who sees a rise of misbehavior in her children in her ‘Sibling Squabbles’ section: “Are you distracted and not watching them as well as you normally do, thus allowing more temptations than usual?” I find her link here between maternal oversight and childish temptation insightful. When a young child isn’t being watched by his mother, he is more tempted to sin than when he is being closely supervised. She acts, in a way, as a kind of external conscience for him as his own internal conscience is developing.
Krueger also makes the point that sibling interaction provides ample occasion for children to “display their natural self-centered characters” and provide moms with “the corresponding opportunity to teach and train them to deny their base nature and embrace and demonstrate God’s nature instead.” In short, she’s saying that we moms should be thankful when grabbiness over toys occur because it gives us great fodder for effective training. She embellishes, saying,
“While a timer (allowing one child a toy for x minutes, then the other) may give you some temporary respite from sibling bickering, they are not learning to be generous and share out of the kindness of their hearts, when they depend on a timer to rule them. Throw out the timer and loosely Tomato Stake them near you when they are playing, so you can observe their interactions. Step in and teach them not just how to follow egocentric rules (I had it first so it’s mine), but godly principles (It pleases God when I am generous and share, even if I had it first and it’s mine). Be there and demonstrate, supervise, teach, and enforce as needed… Of course, being immature children, they will do it again, so be prepared for many repeats until they grow in understanding and eventually acquire both the habit and desire to please God and do what it right. Meanwhile be vigilant and firm. If they go right back to quarreling, immediately banish them to different corners facing the wall until they are very bored and motivated to get along. It’s amazing how fast they can learn to share when faced by the immediate threat of being separated and not have the opportunity to play at all.”
I like Krueger’s final statements here of what to do if and when they go right back to quarreling; she basically advises getting tough with both kids and creating a scenario in which no one wins to drive home her point. I think this level of intentionality could help break through to my children if I were to prioritize and consistently utilize it when selfishness and grabbiness are evident.
In my further reflections on selfishness between siblings, God also convicted me. Dealing with bickering between siblings is distasteful, taxing, and exhausting. No mom enjoys delving into the fray to stop fighting between two of her kids. But I need to be thankful. While I’d love it to be all snuggles and sweet moments with my kids, that’s not the reality – and I need to shun ingratitude to God in the training task he’s given me. I read a wonderful post today about this called “She’s Got People” on Steppin’ Heavenward, a blog written by the mom of ten kids, some biological and some adoptive:
“That is the wonderful thing about family. Your family are your people. For every ‘He’s touching me,’ ‘I had it first!,’ ‘He took the last piece of candy!’ moment there are 10 moments of racing down the street on your bikes, making pizzas together, watching movies and laughing until your sides hurt. These are the things that bonds family together. The good and the bad.”
Amen to that. How would we even appreciate the wonderful, heart-rending good fully if we didn’t have the bad to contrast it to? It takes both to bond us together – and for grace to be fully learned and displayed. And so I must be thankful and diligent as I wade through my children’s sin and appreciate all that is being built in them – and in our family – through overcoming the sins and offenses that crop up in our household.