She speaks with wisdom…sibling rivalry

Jul 2, 2011

This week’s wisdom comes from my mother-in-law . She successfully reared 4 children (3 girls & 1 boy) who are all out-going, loving, genuine, kind, thoughtful and Godly adults. 

Thanksgiving 2004 (note the 1st there are 10!)

They are a very tight-knit family. Part of this comes from traveling abroad doing medical missions as a family…working as a team to serve others. I think another reason these siblings are so close is because of her piece of wisdom:

“Do not get involved in sibling rivalry…”

I interviewed my MIL asking her questions about her parenting and what she had done that she felt was successful. She told me that when her children would fight with each other, should would not get involved. Her reasoning was that if she got involved it would pit them against each other even more as they presented their “cases” to her.

When one of my sons screams, “mom! he hit me!”, instead of getting involved in their dispute, I direct the upset son to talk to his brother. I ask him, “Have you told him why you are upset? You need to talk to your brother.”  Typically, they do end up working it out and sometimes end up laughing together.

Of course, when boys are little and they could get physically hurt I would step in to separate them. However, I have found now that unless there is obvious blood they can usual work things out just fine without my assistance.

Her advice not only helps decrease sibling rivalry, it also teaches them how to reconcile with others in a godly manner. Matthew 18:15 says “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.”

I also believe in training your children in how to handle conflict when they aren’t in the midst of it. That way you can give them skills but not get involved in the heat of the moment. If you would like more guidance on teaching your children how to handle conflict check out the peacemakers website.

Are you close with your siblings? How did your parents handle your disagreements? How do you handle conflict with other adults? Do you talk to that person directly or share your issue with someone else?


  1. christina8592

    i am hoping in a year (or sooner) I can use that same rule of “yall handle it yourself.” genius.
    she is a great woman 🙂
    u forgot to say she raised all VERY opinionated children as well. that had to be part of her scheme.

  2. Angie Anderson

    so, do you think it’s helpful to teach them how to handle situations themselves? or just stay out of it? i feel like my kids reach an impasse and could use some help solving their issues…

    • Heather MacFadyen

      I definitely think we have to teach them first to handle the situation…train them in peacemaking (check out the website I mention for ideas). I think when they are really little you may have to get involved more and separate them if necessary. In general, i think they need to be empowered to solve their problem. My two older boys are almost 6 and 4 and can usually work out their problems if i remind them to talk to their brother first. I think the key is that more often than not we get overly involved in their conflicts…which communicates that they are not capable to solve their problems and that we can take sides with one sibling over the other…pitting them against each other.


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