Sibling Summer Survival Guide

May 30, 2014

For the last week, 3 of my 4 guys have been out of school. And while I’ve enjoyed some lazy days hanging around the house and not packing 30 million lunches, I’m weary.

I’m so very tired of playing referee.

And “training” all. day. long.

By Tuesday night I asked my husband to step in and call a family meeting. We didn’t have a plan, but I just needed someone else to join my voice in saying, “for the love all things good and holy, please get along and love one another.” (or something like that).

Like they are doing for a brief moment in this picture (IG isn’t real life, moms. remember that. it just isn’t).

I came across this little post I wrote two years ago and thought it might not only be helpful for me to re-read but to share with y’all. Even seeing the picture above and then the pic from two years ago below, reminds me that time is going by at lightning speed even if it feels caterpillar-slow.

So may the force be with you (and by “force” I mean “Holy Spirit”) and enjoy a summer of peace and joy!!


The summer is great for so many reasons…{your list here!}. For us it means a lot more time at home (too hot in Texas to be outside, unless you are in a pool) AND a lot more time together.

Given all this “time together” brothers can start to get agitated with one another. Buttons get pushed more frequently. Anger rises quickly. I find myself yelling, “STOP IT!” more often than I’d like.

I discovered that instead of reacting to every fight, I should do training on the front end. Give the boys an idea for how I’d like them to get along and some tools to help. Here is a list of different activities/Scripture/advice I’ve collected over the years on helping keep the peace in your home.

1. Peacemaker Pledge

During our vacation I was reading through an Andrew Murray book and I was struck by one passage:

“To quarrel is a sin that comes too easily to children.  Let us train ours to respect the rights of others, to bear & to forgive when our own are affected.”-Andrew Murray

He also used the words: “Seek peace, and pursue it.” AND the verse:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

His words have given me words to express to my boys what I desire for my home. Yes, boys will be wild. However, we can pursue peaceful relationships and still be energetic and fun.

This week we had another “tea party” (snacks of choice…pop tarts cut into small pieces and banana slices). I grabbed a piece of paper and we brainstormed what it takes to be a “peacemaker”. Here is our list:

Since making the list I think we would add: “no name calling” or the positive version–> “encourage with words”. Some of the items on this list are self-explanatory (“no hitting)…others I thought I would go into more specifically below:

2. Harsh Word, Gentle Word

Controlling my tongue is a struggle. One summer I noticed that we all were speaking in a harsh tone. Again, I referenced “The Well-Versed Family”…my boys and I learned the verse:

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

The hand motions we used while learning the verse are:

  • “gentle answer”= bring together thumb with pointer/middle finger & then open…keeping opening/closing, back & forth (like a little bird’s beak)
  • “turns away wrath”=sweeping gesture of right hand from the front to around your back.
  • “harsh word”=bring two hands/arms together and apart (like a crocodile mouth opening)
  • “stirs up anger”=stirring a pot

Then when any of us started to use a harsh voice, we could be reminded by the hand sign for “gentle answer” or by a verbal reminder, saying “gentle answer” or “don’t stir up anger”.

3. Treat your brother special (honor)

The concept of “honor” came from the work of Dr. Scott Turansky & Joann Miller. They have several wonderful parenting books. One area they focus on is honoring your parents, honoring your siblings. They define honor as: “Treating others special. And doing more than is expected”.

I know its hard sometimes to just get my boys to obey and do what is expected. Then to have them “honor” and do more than is expected…tricky. However, I have noticed when I encourage and positively affirm the times they have “honored” a brother their desire to “honor” increases.

For instance, I’ve asked the boys to get their shoes. A few times one brother has not only put on his shoes but has gotten his brother’s shoes for him. Immediately I use the words, “Wow! Thank you for honoring your brother by doing more than is expected! Not only getting your shoes on but helping get his as well.”

If I notice a brother being unkind or hurtful, I use the gentle reminder: “Treat your brother special.” They are still trying to grasp the concept of “special”. I ask them how they would treat someone they think is really important…the President, famous basketball player, Elmo. =) Then I say, if that person was here, you wouldn’t hit them in the face or take away their toy. You would offer them some food, speak kindly, and share your things with them.

4. Talk to him first 

My mother-in-law wisely advised me: when your children argue try not to get involved. She reasoned when you do get involved it forces them to take sides and “present” their case to you; trying to win you over to their side of the argument.

When one boy offends the other and they come running to tell me (aka “tattle telling”), I immediately ask them, “Have you talked to your brother? Have you told him how you feel?”. Most often they haven’t. For my two-year-old I give him words to say, “Tell your brother: I don’t like when you hit me. It hurts” or “When you are done with that toy can I play with it?”.

Siblings are the first deep, peer relationships our children will have in which they learn to work through challenging disagreements, communicate frustrations, seek forgiveness, and reconciliation. According to the Bible,

 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” (Matthew 18:15).

This verse was directed towards dealing with sin in the church. I feel teaching our children to go to the offender first instills a good habit for the rest of his/her life.

Now if you see us at a pool this summer & my boys are arguing with one another, please do not judge or hold me to an unreasonable standard. I’m just hoping by training my boys in how to get along peaceable with others, as adults they will have healthy & happy relationships. The way they relate to one another will not bring them glory but glorify God, the author of relationships.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

*If you want to read more about peacemaking, check out the website: Peacemaker Ministries


  1. Amy K.

    Great Post! Definitely needed this one. The ideas you presented will help now that my oldest is out of school for the summer. I often think when I start putting steps like these into practice every day that I should see this immediate transformation of my house but in reality it takes lots of time going over and over the ideas before you see radical changes. The small changes are what I need to look for in the relationships between my kids. Thanks for the great ideas!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      oh so true! I’m an instant results person too. If a technique/approach doesn’t work within the first day I’m ready to throw in the towel! thank you for reminding me it’s about small changes!

  2. thehowardfamily4

    Absolutely WONDERFUL and timely post. I love how you point on the small things we can do to make big changes in our boys’ lives. Thank you!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Thank you for your encouragement. Hope it is helpful!

  3. Jennie

    LOOOOVVVEEE this! thanks!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      so glad! although I’ve met your sweet boys and I’m sure you don’t need this!! 😉

  4. Jacki R

    Thank you for this Heather!! I have to admit that although I’m ready for summer, and glad for some down time…I have been worried about time at home, and the sibling interactions. I was so encouraged by this guide, and ready to put some of your wisdom into action! BTW, I love that you have tea with your boys. And that it is such a purposeful time. Today, I brought some tea, crackers, and a sheet of paper out with my kids. Such a great time talking! Thanks for the idea! I’m planning a book idea for you! 🙂 Tea Truths I think it should be called!

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Jacki you are so encouraging! What a great book title! “Tea Truths”. I like it!!

  5. thisgalsjourney

    This is awesome! I will definitely be putting these into practice this summer! I was just noticing my girls have started bickering more frequently lately and was running out of ways to tell them to “stop it!” Ha!

  6. Mary Smallbone

    What a wonderful post! Very timely with my eldest soon to be home from school for Summer break.
    I appreciate this website and the pod casts very much. Thank you for daily shining God’s salt and light.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      thank you Mary for your sweet encouragement! Always happy to hear when what God’s teaching our family, helps another family. blessings!

  7. Katie Bennett

    Very encouraging. My kids are still young, so I am new to sibling conflict. It’s definitely starting though. Thanks for the thoughts.

    • Heather MacFadyen

      so glad it was helpful to you! using lots of these things on our 3 day roadtrip…oi vey!


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