Q. My kids are always bothering one another and causing fights. How can I get them to stop?
A. If you teach your family how to become a component of Jesus’ church, possibly using our "Family Together with Jesus" card pack, then more cooperation will develop among family members.
Too many families are collections of individuals each selfishly pursuing what they want and using any number of ploys to get it. But a family is part of the church if everyone believes, and it can become a very powerful social unit. Biblical principles will govern family interaction when the family takes priority over individual freedoms.
To begin changing things, you need to lead your family as a whole rather than just parenting individual children. By doing so you will diminish individualistic, selfish behavior that leads to bickering and arguments.
See How to Lead the Family as a Family.
The best way to change how people treat one another in your family is to adopt a “family purpose.” I (Dick) led my family to adopt this purpose: “To help each other enjoy life and be all that God wants us to be (as individuals and as a family).” We adopted this purpose when our daughters were 4 and 2 years old.
Get everyone together for a family meeting. Then ask if family members would like to have a family where everyone helps everybody else to enjoy life and be all God wants them to be. Almost everyone will want such a family. But don’t settle for just a fast, “Okay.” Ask what they want the family to be like.
Then say, “What will we need to do to become that kind of family?” Together list some behaviors that will help. Draw out as many good behaviors as you can think of and do not mention negative ones yet. Start with the positive. Things that might be mentioned include addressing disagreements by solving problems and looking for solutions that leave everybody happy whenever possible. Remind family members that the needs and desires of others are just as important as their own. Discuss how everybody must do their chores and faithfully make other contributions to the family, like going to work to make money or going to school and getting good grades. It is best if the kids bring these things up first, with parents commenting later.
After this discussion runs down, ask what behaviors will get in the way of having a happy family. When you’ve drawn up this list, ask the family to talk about how they will solve problems, such as when two people argue. It is important to get everyone to contribute so they will commit to whatever courses of action are decided by the family.
Finally, end on a positive note by asking what the family might want to do for fun. Would they like to have a Family Night every week? Would they enjoy a weekend vacation? If you all decide on a weekend adventure, together plan it out so everyone can look forward to some part they’ll particularly enjoy. Discuss how to handle the things that not everyone is interested in so that the ones who like that part still have the most fun possible. This teaches problem solving. Then, as a family, divide up the work of getting ready for the trip and carrying out the responsibilities on the trip.
Remember that good leadership means not doing anything that others can do for themselves. Where a family member can grow in skills, let him or her take on that responsibility. For example, if the family is going to the zoo or aquarium, one of the younger members can hold the money and pay for the tickets.
All this establishes a foundation for solving family problems, such as kids arguing all the time. Anytime behavior is working against the family purpose, call a family meeting. The behavior, in this case arguing, can be brought to the whole family to find a solution. As a family, you can teach the two kids why arguing does not work for them and — this is very important — is not good for the family. Consequences for the arguing will then be decided by the family, and those consequences should teach, not punish. When the whole family decides on the consequence, you minimize the chance that the consequence will be compromised by conversations behind the parents’ backs. (If the family can hold a family meeting right when the argument is happening, the consequence can be to learn how not to argue about “whatever” right then and there.)
See also: Getting Started in Family Life That Builds the Church