Week 5 – Handling Sibling Differences
Icebreaker Question: How are you different from your siblings? How are you the same?
I love my brothers. I have two younger brothers and we are certainly different. My brother David is an adventurer. He loves to press the limits and blaze new trails both outdoors and in his work. He is much more outspoken than me. I’m not so adventurous, and I tend to hold in my thoughts. My other brother Erik is somewhat like an only child in that he came along quite a while after David and me. He is an incredible artist. I admire his musical talent and his poetic mind. While I wasn’t half bad on the saxophone in my day, I don’t hold a candle to my brother when it comes to musical talent. I also don’t have the poetic cleverness of my brother. On the other hand, we are all brothers who look and sound the same for the most part. We are also bonded together by our family of faith. I am extremely proud of my brothers and I’m glad we’re different.
It is quite obvious that our kids are not the same. They do things differently. They respond to their parents differently. They are gifted in different ways. So how do we handle the blessing of these differences in our children? We will explore this topic as we dive into this session’s conversation.
Some of the differences between siblings is based on gender. Some differences are probably based on birth order (see the quote below) or age. In general, siblings are different, because God made them each unique.
“The difference that is evident in kids’ lives between the first-born child [and] the second-born child in the family, you can almost guarantee they’re going to be the opposite. As we go down the family branch we see that each child branches off in a very unique way … There’s hard research to substantiate there is something to birth order … We find that people in certain occupational areas and expertise in life, such as architecture, accounting, engineering, those structured occupations tend to be first-born children. As we go through the family constellation and go through second children, youngest children, we find that people go into much more people-oriented vocations.” – Kevin Leman (author of The Birth Order Book)
As we dive into this week’s session of handling sibling differences, the Supernanny DVD clips will demonstrate some of the ways our children are different from each other. These DVD segments should provide a spring-board for our conversation.
Note to leader: Show the following clips from the Supernanny Season 1 DVD: Use The Wischmeyer Family Episode DVD Disc 1: 6:30-8:51, 12:41-13:45, 19:48-20:47, and 25:24-26:37. You may choose to show all the clips at once or you may decide to stop the DVD after each clip and discuss the answer to question one or pull out key points as you go.
1. What observations can you make from the DVD clips that relate to handling sibling differences?
Leanne and I have been blessed with two children. Our oldest (a daughter) is a real go-getter. She is self motivated and very independent. She is a gifted leader. Our youngest (a son) is much more of a follower. He is a helper. Our son is a talented piano player. I’m so thankful that God gave us two different kids. Each of our kids responds differently to our attention, to our correction, and to our discipline. We have learned that while one thing might work for our daughter, it won’t work for our son and vice versa. This certainly means that we have to be on our toes at all times.
2. How are your own children different? What is one of the gifts/talents that your child has that is different from their sibling(s)? How does each of your children respond that’s different from the other(s)?
3. How do you handle these differences at your house? How do you make each child feel special and unique?
Part of the differences we see in our kids leads to sibling rivalry and conflict between each other. Here are a few tips that could help parents who are wrestling with sibling conflict. Talk through these four steps together as a group.
1. Don’t make comparisons. (“I don’t understand it. When Johnny was her age, he could already tie his shoes.”) Each child feels he is unique and rightly so-he is unique, and he resents being evaluated only in relation to someone else. Instead of comparison, each child in the family should be given his own goals and levels of expectation that relate only to him.
2. Don’t dismiss or suppress your children’s resentment or angry feelings. Contrary to what many people think, anger is not something we should try to avoid at all costs. It’s an entirely normal part of being human, and it’s certainly normal for siblings to get furious with one another. They need the adults in their lives to assure them that mothers and fathers get angry, too, but have learned control and that angry feelings do not give license to behave in cruel and dangerous ways. This is the time to sit down, acknowledge the anger (“I know you hate David right now but you cannot hit him with a stick”). and talk it through.
3. Try to avoid situations that promote guilt in siblings. First we must teach children that feelings and actions are not synonymous. It may be normal to want to hit the baby on the head, but parents must stop a child from doing it. The guilt that follows doing something mean is a lot worse than the guilt of merely feeling mean. So parental intervention must be quick and decisive.
4. When possible, let brothers and sisters settle their own differences. Sounds good but it can be terribly unfair in practice. Parents have to judge when it is time to step in and mediate, especially in a contest of unequals in terms of strength and eloquence (no fair hitting below the belt literally or figuratively). Some long-lasting grudges among grown siblings have resulted when their minority rights were not protected.
Taken from: http://www.childdevelopmentinfo.com/parenting/sibling_rivalry.shtml
4. Read the following verse from the Bible and quote. What do these say about sibling differences and what does this mean for our own families?
1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.
5. List one or two things that you will do differently or that you will try as a result of our discussion on handling sibling differences.
Take Home Activity: Allow each child in your family to pick out a family fun activity that can be completed in an evening or as part of a family weekend adventure. Here are some ideas that may get you started if you’re stuck: go to the movies, play a game, go on a hike or bike ride, go out for ice cream, etc. After you’ve completed this for each child in your family, talk together about the different things that you did. You can tie this into our discussion by talking about how God has made each of your children differently. There are some things that we all like to do, but there are probably other things that one family member may enjoy or appreciate more than the rest. This could be a great chance to celebrate the differences that exist in your family.
Next week’s topic: Purpose for Discipline
Looking Ahead: Week 7 – Methods of Discipline, Week 8 – Introducing Your Kids to Christ