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A Surprising Antidote for Sibling Rivalry

Teaching your children to help others is a lifetime gift to them and to everyone they encounter.
By Brett Johnston


After pouring over my information for years really, something hit me. Almost all sibling rivalry problems are rooted in one thing. That one thing is selfishness.

Greed, jealousy, needing attention, and inability to understand others all have roots in being selfish. “I want it my way and no one else matters.”

I wondered what could be done in my children’s lives to affect their tendency to act this way. Then I came across the story of six-year-old Zach Bonne. He is an ordinary kid from Florida. He heard on the radio that people in New Orleans needed water after Hurricane Katrina hit. He set out with a red wagon into his neighborhood to collect water to send to Louisiana. He ended up sending 27 truckloads of water.

Zach has since walked 280 miles to raise money for food in his hometown and done countless other things for his community and the people who live in it. His actions are the epitome of unselfish behavior.

Working and giving alongside our children

I believe we can change the hearts of our children by actively giving our time to others. In fact, this has become a real passion in my home. My kids might never become another Zach, but they don’t have to either. Doing small things for others is really what I’m after.

There is much anecdotal evidence of children who take the time to volunteer having a very high degree of love for each other and everyone around them. There are abundant acts of charity our children can participate in with us. With is emphasized because parents must model the new behavior by working alongside their children. It also provides us with fun, heartwarming tasks to accomplish as a family.

There are so many positive benefits to charity work! Not only are you helping an individual, family, or group in need, but the benefits to you and your family are immeasurable. Your time is probably the best contribution you can make to another human being.

It is this kind of generosity, shared by parents and their children, that leads to a generation of youngsters with strong, caring souls.  

Here are some initial ideas of charitable tasks parents and their children can do together.

  • Buy and distribute gifts or food during the holidays to needy families.
  • Take a few new stuffed animals or balloons to a local children’s hospital. If you really want to go crazy, help your kids save money to hire a clown for a few hours in a children’s unit. The kids will forget they are even in the hospital! Call the pediatric department for more ideas. Tell them, “My children and I want to do something for the kids in the hospital. Do you have any ideas?” Whatever you decide to do though, check with the recipient before you actually show up.
  • Take some used but not used-up toys to a pediatric oncologist’s office (or any pediatrician’s office) for their waiting room.
  • Draw pictures and mail them to a children’s hospital or to overseas military personnel.
  • Color a picture or card for the retired, single person down the street.
  • Check with your church for activities they have already started. There are always charitable events taking place there.

What if you were to choose only one action item to accomplish each quarter with your children? That is a few hours once every three months! Consider how much time we spend developing our kids’ bodies by taking them to soccer, gymnastics, basketball … on and on. Then we help develop their minds with school, music lessons, and reading. Again, on and on. This is all perfectly okay! But let’s not entirely skip over arguably the most important element of the human experience: their souls.

Traditionally we, as parents, don’t take the time to help develop this priceless part of a child, and it shows in the world around us.

I hear it already. Some people will say, “We take our kids to church every Sunday. Isn’t that enough?”

It is a great start. But the next step is to apply those principles we learn inside the church walls to our lives outside of them. Practically all religions have elements of giving in them. Is there an excuse for any of us to learn and believe in things we are not willing to practice?

Charity encourages sibling closeness

Ultimately, the benefit of giving things away is beyond measure! When kids learn to give to the less fortunate on a consistent basis, something in their hearts click. They care less about the small possessions they used to fight over. Children become more likely to share with their brothers and sisters. As adults, they are more likely to give to the community and be involved in helping those around them. This is truly a lifetime gift to your children and everyone they come in contact with. Please, just give it a try.

Also, I really did not even mention how these acts of goodwill help the recipients. There are people in every city, town, and community that need real help today. It is not the government’s job or someone else’s job to improve their lives or give them hope; it is our job. Sometimes, a simple thought from another person can totally change the outcome of a person’s day, week, or month. Good deeds have a way of lingering on. So, please, start planning ways to reach out to somebody in your community today.

The bond created by the family who donates their time is unbreakable. In my opinion, husband and wife with brother and sister helping in their community unites their hearts and souls to each other.

Adapted from Close Kids. Copyright © 2010 by Brett Johnston. Published by Tate Publishing, Mustang, Oklahoma. Used by permission.

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.

Brett Johnston spent over 15 years examining and creating medical trials and how they relate to physician practices and patient care.  This experience led him to create a medical-grade study of adult siblings and their relationships to each other.  



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