However it is labeled, bickering, squabbling, fighting, brawling, dispute, altercation, rumpus (pick your favorite.) There is no shortage of them in a home with more than one child. As much as we’d all like people to believe our little angels get along well all the time, they just don’t! Part of growing up is learning how to disagree appropriately. We’d all agree that in the human experience, there is nothing more miserable than someone who argues all the time! The Bible even has a few words on the subject:
Proverbs 21:19 It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.
This morning began bright and early with a quarrel over who got to wear the pink skirt between my 4 and 5 year old girls. What amazed me (it shouldn’t I guess, I witness it frequently enough,) is how quickly it can go from just chatting to an all out brawl. 1.2 seconds and we’ve ceased chattering over how excited we are for VBS today, and begun a violent tug of war over the skirt, complete with shouting and tears. As a Mom I’m wondering how to stop this? I’ve read studies in my previous schooling that we need to give them strategies, which usually consist of some kind of negotiating skills, but I won’t even mention how I feel about THAT, because that is another blog post entirely that would be titled “Why what I learned in college about teaching children is a load of manure.” It would end with a statement about how ineffective man based strategies touting humanism that deny the Bible really don’t work, because they deny the creator. But I digress!
So my college classes have taught me nothing useful. Alright, what about what I learned working in a daycare? Those every day experiences with fighting kids? That the more I teach them to negotiate, the more nothing happens. They are children. Their first impulse is to hit and yell. Teaching them to react is doing nothing. I’m going to choose follow the Bible’s advice, after all, the Creator knows more than the created! Time to get training!
Proverbs 1:2-7 says:
for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—
let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—
for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Alright so scripture is clear, if I want to teach my children ANYTHING, I need to start by teaching them the fear of the Lord! We all know that famous Proverb of Solomon, “Train up a child in the way he shall go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” It makes so much sense when it comes down to it, I train my children how to cross the street, tie their shoes, how to make their bed every morning, how to find wisdom in a scripture verse, how to listen to a sermon, and to obey Mom and Dad. Why haven’t I trained them how to properly argue? I know it is a skill that I value now in my marriage, but that the initial lack of that skill was disastrous! So what does scripture say about “contention” and “strife?”
1. Pride is the first issue to deal with! Proverbs 13:10 says: “Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” First step is to teach our children the evils of pride, and to abandon self, and seek to serve others. Jesus said: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” in Mark 9:35. Philippians 2:3 says “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
2. Recognize an issue before the blowup. Proverbs 17:14 says: “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” Teach your children to mention an issue before it becomes a problem, or, with young children, be clear about boundaries. This morning’s pink skirt issue was something I should have dealt with before. My girls are in roughly the same size, and many hand-me-downs occur, so we’ve instituted the family closet. I thought this would stop arguments about who is wearing what. So this morning they still fought about it! Pride cropped up. Generally it gets taken away and no one has it, until the argument is solved. That worked. They cry for a bit, but they move on. Teaching them to surrender the item every time a contention occurs, and THEN deal with the argument is a good way to teach them how to properly disagree, and how to submit and seek God’s opinion before asserting ours foolishly. It can be hard at first, but the more it becomes habit to surrender the contentious point, the better things are. One day at a time, right? Children stumble and sin too, this is where patience and grace come into play!
3. Confront an issue. Much like step 2, this is a more sophisticated version. Sometimes the problem isn’t material, it is emotional. An offense has occurred. Teaching them the steps of resolving conflict Biblically is a good thing. Now, I highly doubt sibling issues will end up going all the way to the church, but children learn how to work within a body in their family first. Here are the steps laid out in Matthew 18:15-17
“(a.) If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (b.) But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. (c.) If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. “ Ok so this is specific to churches, how to translate that to family life? Here is what I tell my children: (a.) If your sister has said something unkind, talk to her. Tell her what is wrong. (b.) If you can’t reach an agreement/settle the problem, BOTH of you come to me. I will listen to both sides. Then, we discuss it. It is resolved at this point more often then not. (c.) IF it continues, and is an ongoing problem, we might have a family meeting that involves DAD. Generally, they want to avoid this scenario… So we don’t reach that point often!
4. Go back to basics. Remind them often that fights and quarrels are a result of our own pride and need to win. James 4:1 says: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” Remind them that wisdom, and peace are to be found in fearing the Lord. Proverbs 28:25 says: “A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.” Remind them that God does not take kindly to a constant quarreling attitude, but he blesses peace. Romans 2:8 says: “But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”
5. Pursue peace. Romans 14:9 says: So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. As my Mother says “If you don’t have anything nice to say, Don’t say anything at all!”
Additional Wise sayings on the subject of strife:
It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling. Proverbs 20:3
A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention. Proverbs 15:18
A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends. Proverbs 16:28
Last but not least:
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. Proverbs 10:12
How do you practically handle arguments in your house? What works? What doesn’t? What does scripture say on the subject that strikes you?