why siblings fight- 2 toddler sisters back to back with frustrated faces

Why Siblings Fight

All siblings fight. Have you ever wondered why your children fight? Does it seem to happen almost without cause? Do you sometimes feel at a loss to know how to predict the spark that will ignite the flame of sibling sparring or how to navigate the battle after it starts?

Answer to Why Siblings Fight

Maybe you’ve wondered if the Bible has anything to say about sibling fights. Well, there’s good news. It does!

In fact, in one sense, you could say that practically the whole Bible provides useful wisdom to help us navigate sibling interactions. We are all fallen in Adam and we all struggle with temptations. Jesus redeems us from the power of sin and enables us to live new lives to his glory. The summary of the law is to love God and love your neighbor.

All of this applies to sibling relationships. But there is one passage in particular that helps us to get to the heart of the struggle.

James 4:1 explains exactly what causes sibling struggles:

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (ESV).

Or the King James Version states it this way: “From whence come wars and fighting among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (KJV).

Do Kids Have “Passions” and “Lusts”?

Sometimes when we hear words like “passions” and “lusts” we think about sexual temptations. Perhaps you’ve even read these verses before but didn’t consider them to apply to your children’s rowes. Maybe it sounded like James was writing to guys who were fighting over girlfriends or people who were being unfaithful to their spouses.

Lusts, however, are simply desires. Augustine would call them “disordered loves.” Calvin would call it “idolatry.” We might say it means that your priorities are out of order.

See, most often, siblings fight over things that are actually good things—things that are legitimate desires. They want the toy. They want a turn. They want the last treat or the first ride.

The problem isn’t usually with the things they want. The problem is that the desire for them has outpaced other desires that should have had first priority.

Jesus said that the first commandment is to love God and the second is to love your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39). Fights are causes when children (or adults!) love things more than people, or love having their own way more than they love obedience to God.

So What Do We Do Next?

Perhaps this all sounds like semantics. Why does it matter if they have “disordered loves”?

It makes quite a difference in how we guide them through their conflict. So often it is our temptation to simply remove the object of the dispute.

Can’t agree on who plays with the toy? Nobody gets it.

Arguing over the last brownie? Give it to Daddy.

On some occasions this approach may be the best way to end a conflict. However, we want to be careful that we don’t communicate the wrong message.

There is nothing inherently evil about toys or brownies. Since the sin does not emanate from inside theses objects, we can’t cure the problem by removing the objects.

Instead, what we have to do is disciple the heart of the child. God made many good and wonderful things in His creation. Our calling is to worship and serve the Creator, rather than the creation, and to guide and instruct our children in doing the same.

Do you need some suggestions and encouragement in discipling your children to love each other well? I’d love to have you join me for the free 5-Day Sibling Strengthener Challenge! You’ll get five daily emails with tips and ideas you can implement in your home today to create a solid foundation for positive sibling interactions.

Lynna Sutherland blogs at Homeschooling Without Training Wheels, where she loves to remind moms (and herself!) of the freedom and flexibility that come with homeschooling! Lynna and her husband have seven children. The motto of their homeschool is “Wisdom Is the Principal Thing” from Proverbs 4:7. You can also find Lynna on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Lynna hosts a private Facebook group called Family Schooling without Training Wheelsspecifically for encouraging parents in multi-age homeschooling and outside-the-box approaches to meet the needs of their unique family.

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