Habits – kindness/fighting

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  • kymom

    I need some practical advice to instill a habit we really need: kindness towards siblings instead of fighting/yelling/harsh words etc.

    My children fight so often and it takes so much joy from our lives. I want to work towards a peaceful, happy home with a family that loves each other, can work together, and can enjoy time together. I want them to grow up into adults who have good relationships with each other and with their parents.

    Last year we worked through the book “The Young Peacemaker” which was cited on a video here on SCM. We learned a lot of skills for solving problems instead of fighting, but what I came to realize was that it’s not just about knowing the skills, it’s about having a desire to use them. I’ve also tried other Christian techniques for solving problems as well as some ideas from secular books on conflict. None of these things have made much of a difference.

    In the last few months I’ve started praying morning and night with the children for the Holy Spirit to bring us His fruits of joy, peace, love, kindness, forgiveness, etc. so we can have a happy home. I’ve talked with them a lot about the kind of family I want us to be and how I need them to work towards it, I can’t do it alone.

    I’ve been looking up some scriptural teaching about loving one’s brother and have been reading and discussing these with the children. It just seems to me that nothing is really touching them. I’m feeling overwhelmed and discouraged by the fighting, and I see that the main thing lacking is their will to change and to treat each other kindly. I see that no amount of technique training will help until they actually want to be kind to each other.

    So I have three questions:

    1. How can I help them want to be kind to each other, realizing it has to come from them?

    2. How can we work from a practical standpoint to instill the habit of kindness in our home?

    3. What kind of expectations are realistic here? I realize adults often have conflicts and struggle to get along and solve problems, so I don’t want to have completely unrealistic expectations of my young children! What could be realistic in a Christian family for standards of kindness and problem solving?

    Thank you for any help anyone care share!


    I tried similar tactics for years with no real “fruit”. I recently read “Nonviolent Communication” by Marshall B. Rosenberg and it has truly been life-changing. Is everything perfect? No. Do I agree with everything he says 100%? No. My kids still have squabbles and I still lose my temper. But there has been a huge improvement.



    I don’t know what ages you have so take anything useful here;)  have 6 kids age 12-6months obviously I haven’t done teens yet but here are a few of my thoughts.

    When 2 have really fought alot I have had the older keep a notebook with an idea of something kind to do for younger sibling each day. We also prayed each day for younger sibling. (Here younger was a toddler if they were both older have each pray and keep a journal.) Have you seen the movie about the “love dare” similar idea here.

    Here it’s illegal to fight. You get in trouble for it. God says to love your siblings. This is one of your first jobs….like it or not. God’s jobs for us are not always fun. Hopefully some day you will want to be kind but for now you have to.

    It sounds funny but tying the fighting children together can help. Use a bandanna through overall straps or around wrists. They can untie it so it’s not scary or anything, but that would get them in more trouble so mine haven’t.

    It can also help to make the fighting children work together like wash opposite sides of a window or something.

    Also automatic consequences like you fight you work. Keep a chore list….wash windows, sweep sidewalk, clean tub….wash woodwork…..any dull job they can do themselves. The idea here is obviously they don’t have enough to do it they are fighting and they should value their free time.


    Totheskydear, thank you! I put the book on my amazon list and will try to get a copy as soon as possible if you think it’s  been very helpful!

    Ruralmama, our families are in approximately the same range. I have seven ages almost 11 to 2 years. Thank you very much for the ideas. Our biggest ongoing issue is with my oldest who is constantly declaring war on her 8 year old brother (my third child). She sees him as her greatest enemy and acts accordingly, often from the moment she gets up in the morning. He occasionally responds in kind, but often he tells me he “wants to make friends” with this sister but doesn’t know how.

    After this example going on so long, my second child, 9 year old girl, has also started routinely treating this brother unkindly in the last few months.

    Several of your ideas look good for my situation! Thank you so much for sharing. We’ll get to work today!


    We had some mean, nasty, downright sinful behavior in our home that went on for a few years. Thank you puberty hormones. I cried nearly every night that my children hated each other. Which isn’t true, but it felt that way. I honestly do not think anything we did made much difference. It did finally end with the end of puberty. What helped bring me, and the home, peace was LOTS of prayer. Alone, over them, with them.  They also prayed for self control for themselves, because they did acknowledge they were wrong, but “couldnt help it.”  The realization that I really cannot control their “feelings” toward each other helped me as well. I started talking to them about acting kind, not “feeling” kind.  Sometimes they dont get the difference. I demanded a certain behavior, regardless of feelings. With consequences for unacceptable behavior. They eventually understood that you need not feel warm fuzzies to behave in love. Like I said, I dont think anything really helped, just time. But we did take a stand for the behavior we expected and enforced the rules over, and over, and over, and over… The two kids who had the issue still arent BFFs, but they behave kindly toward each other. And I have hope for them. Try to find peace for yourself in the family you have now, imperfect as it may be. And try not to grow weary in doing good. It will pay off one day. Keep demanding loving behavior, enforce consequences (without mommy outbursts), and know it could take longer than you would like. But its o.k. God has you all working through this for a beautiful purpose.


    Crystal, thank you so much for sharing your experience. It sounds like you had a harder time than I am having, so I need to be thankful for what I have for starters! Thank you for all your helpful advice, especially on prayer and perseverance. I easily become discouraged when my attempts to improve things don’t “work.” Thank you for the reminder to keep going anyway. I printed your response to keep where I can see it frequently. Blessing to you and your family!


    This is not a cure-all, but is one happy step that can get the ball rolling. Find a craft or job that each child likes to do, and have special time with that child making or doing things for each of the other siblings. Perhaps your toddler likes to color; spend time with that child coloring a sheet for each other children. Sewing? Maybe that child will sew a little ornament for everyone. They like to play act? Record a little drama dedicating to each. It will not solve all fighting, but it goes along way toward good will. And the kids already like these activities, so it’s not a burden it’s a joy to do. It’s just one small piece that can start to help a change. They all practice doing something kind, and they all receive something kind.

    I have 6 kids (9-1 years old). Do they fight, yes. But they also do lots of kind things for each other. They routinely save up money to buy each other gifts, make others crafts, and voluntarily help each other with chores. I do wish they wouldn’t fight, but at least they don’t hold grudges for more that 15 minutes.

    And when you do see them being kind, heap the praise on!

    Bethany Gerfers

    I have three girls, ages 5,7, and 9 and deal with a lot of the same things. One minute they would kill for each other and the next minute they want to kill each other! It’s exhausting. I always try to have them talk out everything and have each child explain their side of things “it made me feel —-when you did this” “it was wrong of me to ——-“ etc. They apologize and forgive and I always remind them we are on the same team. We are for each other and not against each other, but instead we are against the enemy who wants to divide. I also have them pray with me for peace and unity in our home and we rebuke chaos and division. It’s so hard, and I feel like it’s one of those things we may not see the fruit of until possibly years from now, but we have to keep doing it. Praying for you!!


    Thank you all for the advice and prayers!

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