Children will fight and argue. This is a natural part of being born sinners in a fallen world. The answer is not to find a way to stop this, but to teach them how to resolve these conflicts biblically. In today’s post I am excited to share some of the ways we are teaching our children to share and play together.
We can see moments of conflict as opportunities to teach them the invaluable biblical principles of restitution, resolution, repentance, forgiveness, loving our neighbor and so much more.
Training them while they are in our home how to biblically handle conflict is not just our responsibility as their parents, but can make our home life sweeter, foster loving sibling relationships, and will give them valuable life skills for their future as well.
Of course we don’t do this perfectly and our children struggle with greed, covetousness and unloving responses on a daily basis! But we can rest in knowing we are giving them the opportunity to practice and learn valuable life lessons and build character here in our home first as we seek to honor the Lord in this. However, we have seen the fruit of less strife and more enjoyment in each other with what we have learned and sought to apply over the years.
Basic principles for teaching children how to share and play together
It is helpful to first establish some basic principles for your home that you have as a foundation for how you will handle situations. This will help to give you clarity as well as enable you to be more clear and consistent with application. I encourage you to do this for your own home. Try to take some time, preferably as a couple, to get clarity on some principles of conduct in your home.
Seek the Word of God together and also look at your unique family dynamic and pitfalls. Every family is different and has differing needs. For example, with our large family of primarily boys, we had to be clear on physical limitations as well as reinforcing respect for other’s property. You might have a different dynamic that includes different specifics.
The principles we apply are based on our desire to establish Biblical character not just manage behavior. We want our children to learn contentment and that all things come from the Lord and we are merely to be grateful stewards of them. Teaching them how to love others more than themself and having a servant’s heart is also of primary importance to us.
Some basic principles of conduct for sharing and playing together
- Ask first
- Accept no for an answer
- Treat others’ property with respect
- Playing is to be mutually fun for all parties
- Restitution for destruction or stealing
- Do unto others as you would want to be treated
- No hitting
- Kind and gentle touching and words
How we teach this in the toddler years
Practice practice practice!
Teaching sharing and playing nicely in the toddler years requires the most time and patience from us as parents, but will be the most fruitful if we do our work here. This season is all about training and instructing how and what to do.
When we take the time to model the correct positive behavior and responses we will spend less time navigating the wrong ones. Little kids are learning and their sin natures will naturally tend towards selfish responses, but they need to be shown primarily what the right behavior looks like. Their instincts are going to be sinful but they need to learn what that even means, and that can happen with practice, and demonstration. When a conflict arises, we try to quickly address the wrong behavior, make apologies as needed, and then practice the correct responses for all involved.
Of course it is important that we correct their sinful responses, but we can spend all day doing that and not make any headway in our training if we are not teaching them the right responses and how to handle what they are feeling in a godly way.
Teaching how to share
For our large family, we try to not exacerbate littles by making toys primarily a sharing experience not an opportunity to breed more covetousness and greed by letting littles hoard toys or keep them to themselves.
We want to encourage our children that playing together and sharing is the better and more fun way to play and that everyone should work and do their part to help them all have fun.
Some practical ways we do this is by having the older children keep only a few special toys in their bedrooms , and the rest of the shareable toys out and accessible to all.
If a child wants to play with a toy that sibling is playing with they must wait patiently and play with something else, but we also encourage the sibling to help the other one find a toy to play with while they wait.
We store most of our sharing toys in bins and only have a few out at a time so that the children do not become overwhelmed as easily trying to decide what to play with. Or we can get another bin out for a child who is waiting a turn with a toy.
Some of our favorite toys for sharing:
- Magna tiles
- Animals, dinosaurs and action figures
- Wooden blocks
- Dress ups
- Nerf guns
- Wooden Weapons
- Hot wheels
Teaching how to share as they get older
As the children get older and have the ability to care for their possessions, we let them keep a few special things in their room in a designated drawer or at least out of the reach of little careless hands. They learn stewardship this way and how to manage what they have. However, they are still encouraged to give their younger siblings observed turns and to share with each other and play together.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog! See my full disclosure here.
Some toys that are personal or “special” toys:
Bible verses for teaching children to share and play together
Being consistent in the formative years when children are little lays the invaluable foundation needed for when they are older. They won’t be free from greed or covetousness, but they will have the tools for handling it when they are. This is what we want to give our children! Tools and resources for how to combat their sin and overcome it as they are sanctified and learn to rely on their own Heavenly Father for strength.
Some verses that we have our children memorize and are helpful during this time are the following:
John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Romans 12: 10 “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”
Luke 12:15 “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Teaching loving sibling relationships
We don’t really give our children the option of not getting along with a sibling. Instead, we remind them of their mutual love that is objectively a part of being in our family. They then must learn HOW to work that out, instead of catering to the natural selfish tendencies of withdrawing, pestering and belittling.
Our perspective is that our children are each other’s best friends! We reinforce this by reminding them of this all day long. We repeat to them that they love their brother and their brother loves them, that is why we treat each other with kindness.
Sometimes there are situations that particular children just aren’t getting along with each other. Maybe there is a wrong that needs to be made right and so we encourage them to keep short accounts with each other by confessing sins right away.
Other times, they just are annoyed or jealous and letting that take root in petty annoyances with each other. We try to get to the heart of the issue as soon as possible in that case. If we can’t get to the bottom of it and find resolution, we typically will have them spend MORE time together. I know this seems counterintuitive, and as parents we would rather not deal with that, but things usually get resolved as they learn to work it out. We’ll give them chores to do together or have them sit next to each other even! hehe
For example, sometimes it shows up by not wanting to hold hands during family prayer before our dinner. So we’ll have them hold hands for an extra minute nicely. This usually works! 🙂 They have to just learn to get over whatever it is and work it out! This is also a good reason it is healthy for kids to share rooms together.
Our kids really are each other’s best friends and love spending time together. It is a gift from the Lord and a delight to witness, but it requires work!
Teaching children to share and play together in review
Let’s review! Here are some ways you can practically teach your children how to share and play together-
- Establish some rules for conduct in your home based on teaching biblical character rather than managing behavior.
- The little years are for learning through demonstration and lots of practice with the focus on positive behavior.
- Mutual fun is the goal of play, not lording over each other or greedily hoarding.
- As they get older teach them the principles from God’s Word of stewardship as well as kindness as they learn to lean on Him for strength to combat their sin.
- Communicate that the nature of their relationship is already established as being each other’s best friend, and have them confess sins as soon as possible.
- Not being in fellowship is not an option. They must work it out. More time together helps this, not less.
I hope this post today was helpful, and if it was please let me know in the comments. If you have any follow up questions I’d love to hear them!
Thanks for being here in my little corner today friends!
In HIS service,
PIN TO SAVE & SHARE