My favorite holiday tradition is the day we give our kids money and set them loose in a toy store.
They tear through the aisles, eyes glittering with desire, desperate to find the perfect toy. As they search, my husband and I watch them transform into the best versions of themselves. Compassionate, selfless versions. Big-hearted, open-handed versions that sometimes hibernate for weeks in normal life, but always wake up shining on this day.
Because on this day they aren’t shopping for a toy they want—they are choosing gifts for each other. This is Sibling Gift Day.
When our kids were toddlers, my husband and I began searching for ways to build a spirit of giving and generosity into our Christmas traditions—singing in nursing homes, buying gifts for families in need, baking treats for friends—but Sibling Gift Day has become our most bonding holiday tradition. Not only does it teach our kids the joy of giving, it also builds connection and affection in our family. Here’s how we do it . . .
The sibling struggle is real, y’all. I offer photographic proof from my own home.
But then there are moments like this (when they don’t know you’re looking):
A few thoughts before we get to the scriptures…
Siblings are one of the greatest blessings—and challenges—of childhood. They reveal kids’ character as no other relationships do. Siblings force each other to learn how to be selfless, flexible, forgiving, resilient, patient, self-controlled, and a thousand other things. With God’s help and parents’ guidance, sibling relationships can develop into a lifelong source of joy and friendship. I believe this is possible because I saw what my parents, by God’s grace, built in my family growing up (four kids who still really like and enjoy each other, even as adults—talk about a modern-day miracle!). We didn’t just have “good chemistry”; our closeness was no accident. Over the years, many tears were shed; countless apologies were made. Watching the work my parents put into our family, I learned a valuable lesson that I cling to now that I’m building my own family of four crazy kids: Close, caring sibling relationships don’t “just happen.” And it’s not just the “lucky families” who get to enjoy them. Any family can build close sibling relationships—any family! yours too!—if they are willing to put the work in, and do it God’s way.
Cultivating sweet sibling friendships takes intense, daily effort from every member of the family—first the parents, then the kids. Kids don’t just outgrow their mean, petty, selfish behaviors—they have to be taught and disciplined and reminded until they learn to act otherwise. If we the parents allow cruel words, insults, sarcasm, shouting, and even hitting and violence between our children, then those behaviors will continue. When we allow these behaviors to go undealt with for a long time, we are setting our kids up for increasing resentment and antagonism that will only build, year by year. That’s the bad news. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Kevin and I are working so hard (SO! HARD!) to encourage close relationships among our four kids—and some days it’s just an exhausting grind. Sometimes I wonder if we’re getting through, if they’ll ever be as close as we dream they will be. But then we see sparks of hope, signs of progress—our miserly son sharing gum with his sisters, unprompted; the six-year-old, caring more for the two-year-old’s fair ride experience than for her own; the nine-year-old not losing her temper when a sibling leaves the cap off her favorite markers for the zillionth time. I see these seeds of hope and affection sprouting, and pray that as we continue to nurture them, they will grow into wondrous friendships that give us ALL joy our whole lives long. Kevin and I are determined. With the help of God and scriptures like the ones listed here, we will not give up.
Here are 13 scriptures to help siblings get along:
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21
“Do not say, ‘I’ll do to them as they have done to me; I’ll pay them back for what they did.’ ” Proverbs 24:29
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 13:16
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2: 3–4
“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1
“The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Galatians 5:14–15
“ ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:26
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” Luke 17:3–4
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers…. Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:16,18
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My first-ever YouTube parenting series is underway, talking about five key foundations to establish in the early years with our kids!
In the series, we’re talking about love, obedience, respect, honesty, and responsibility.
If you haven’t seen the new LizzyLife YouTube channel yet, here are the first few links:
In “First Comes Love,” we discuss the importance of putting lots of love in the bank with our kids, creating an atmosphere of expressiveness and affection. This gives us the confidence we need to parent strongly, and the comfort of knowing that “love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
In the second video, “Establishing Obedience,” we examine what godly obedience looks and sounds like. (Hint: It doesn’t look like eye-rolling and slumped shoulders, and it doesn’t sound like moaning and wailing and muttered complaints.)
If you’d like to be automatically notified with an email when I post a new video, it’s easy to subscribe to the YouTube channel! You’ll need to visit YouTube directly—click here to watch “Establishing Obedience” from YouTube. Once you’re there, just click on the little red rectangle that says “subscribe,” found right underneath the video. I’m shooting to post videos twice a month for now, then we’ll see how my sanity and marriage are holding up! Heh heh. (Okay, but really.)
Hi! I'm Elizabeth, and Lizzy Life is all about clinging to Christ in the chaos of daily life. As a minister, speaker, and novelist (The Thirteenth Summer), I love finding humor in holiness, and hope in heartache. I live in North Carolina with my preacher husband and four loud children. I believe the recipe for a happy life is simple: laugh-cry daily, pray continually, caffeinate constantly. My new book, When God Says "Wait," is now available from Barbour Publishing. READ MORE.
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