FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Three Roadblocks to Harmony

with Joanne Miller, Scott Turansky | May 5, 2006
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Having a little sibling conflict at your house? Then join us for today's broadcast when Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, authors of the book Say Goodbye to Whining, talk about three roadblocks to sibling harmony: selfishness, foolishness and anger.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Having a little sibling conflict at your house? Then join us for today's broadcast when Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, authors of the book Say Goodbye to Whining, talk about three roadblocks to sibling harmony: selfishness, foolishness and anger.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller talk about three roadblocks to sibling harmony: selfishness, foolishness and anger.

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Three Roadblocks to Harmony

With Joanne Miller, Scott Turansk...more
May 05, 2006
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Bob: Do your children ever tattle on each other?  Here is JoAnn Miller.

JoAnn: Tattling is a common problem.  Parents often – they don't know what to do with it.  Who do you put in trouble, then, you know, when one is tattling on another, and we want to take a different approach.  We want to look at the problem, even as an adult, what's the biblical response?  Well, we can look in Matthew, and we see that when there's conflict, the first thing you do is try to work it out together.  That's what Jesus teachers, you work it out together, and if that doesn't work, then you get a third person involved.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, May 5th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We're going to talk today about tattling and other common childhood maladies.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.  Do you have anger at your house?  Tattling at your house?  Bragging and envy and boasting?  Do you have kids who pick on brothers or sisters and then say, "I was only joking."  Do your children have a servant's attitude?  Are they ever foolish?  Today is for you, Mom and Dad.

Dennis: [laughing] You've already got your radio voice on there.  I want to read you something I wrote 13 years ago, and this was back when we had six children, 14 and under, and we must have had an epidemic of complaining and whining and belly-aching around our house, because I wrote this.  "Dear Friend, I want to complain about complaining.  I want to gripe about grumbling, grouchiness, fault-finding, and whining.  My dad used to call it 'belly-achin'. 

Do you get annoyed with complaining around your house?  I do.  I mean, the stuff we grumble about is really big-time, major-league circumstances.  We gripe about who gets to sit where at the dinner table.  We now assign seats.  We grumble about chores, especially who cleans up after dinner." See, there, I told you about early in the week.  "We get grumpy over socks that never match, toilets that are never flushed, toys that populate the floor, and tubs that are littered with an assortment of dolls, boats, bottles, and melting bars of soap.  Kids gripe if they see another child getting an advantage or an unfair gain.  I murmur when my car gets trashed out by a herd of French-fry-eating youngsters and grumble when it seems we're seldom on time when our family goes anywhere.

It became so bad about a year ago that we finally memorized Scripture."  Always turn to the Scripture as a last resort.

Bob: Desperation.

Dennis: "Philippians 2:14 – 'Do all things without grumbling or disputing.'  That helped for a while."  I'm not going to go ahead and read the entire piece.  If you want to see the entire piece, you can go to our Internet site.  There's more than you wanted to hear there about griping and complaining, but I do want to offer some solutions today from a pair who have been with us all week – Scott Turanksy and JoAnn Miller, welcome back to the broadcast.  This has been a real treat to have you all here talking about whining, complaining, and bad attitudes.

Scott: Thank you very much, Dennis.

JoAnn: This has been a lot of fun.

Dennis: They've written the book, "Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids," and it's been so good that in four short days Bob Lepine and his wife Mary Ann have completely declared their home a no-whine zone.

Bob: A whine-free zone, yes.  It's been absolutely …

Dennis: It's perfect.

Bob: It's wonderful, and I think it's going to stay that way now for …

Dennis: … 24 hours?

Bob: No, not that long.  Maybe another 30 minutes, I think, I've got left.  I came across this dictionary that – and I think children are issued this dictionary and told to memorize it when they're very young, because it has terms in it like, "No."  What does "No" mean?  Well, it has three meanings.  It either means "Maybe," that's one; two, "Check with Mom," or, three, "Yes."  And I think a lot of kids think that's what "No" means.  Or, for example, "Good night."  Do you know what "Good night" means to a child?  Well, it's a magical code word, which transforms tired children into thirsty, sick-to-their-stomach, talkative, frightened gremlins.  These gremlins will turn into sleeping children after three threats upon their life, two drinks of water, one night light, a bedtime story, and 35 minutes of all of the above.  And there's a final one here, which is "Hurry."  The word "Hurry."  That is something 12-year-old girls are in when their parents aren't, and something they aren't in when their parents are.

Dennis: Yes, absolutely.  And today on the broadcast what we want to do is take a grocery list from your house.  We want to deal with sibling rivalry, tattling, boasting, and, if we have time, whining, all right?  So, Scott, the first one is to you.  How do we approach sibling rivalry in this whole area of helping children honor one another?

Scott: We believe that a child's first class in relationships is sibling harmony.  It's our job as parents to be the teachers, and our home is the classroom, and honor is the curriculum.  And so what we're trying to do is teach our children how to get along with each other.  That's so important, because if we can teach our children how to get along with each other, then when they get older, they'll be able to get along with other people in life.  After all, how many times can you think of adults that you see around that remind you of your brother or your mother or your father?  If we can teach our children how to relate in FamilyLife, then they'll be able to relate to the other people that they'll meet in life.

 So it's very important for us to address this, and we say that there are three roadblocks to sibling harmony.  The first is anger; the second is wanting to be first or best, which is selfishness; and the third is foolishness.  What we want to do is target our parenting in those directions.  You see, if we can, as parents, know what the target is, we know what to do with our comments.  That doesn't mean it's going to be easy, but at least we know where we're going with this discipline. 

Those three roadblocks each have a solution.  We say that the solution to anger is not just anger control, but it's learning to be a peacemaker, that's what honor does.  It looks at other people's anger and knows how to bring peace into the situation.  When it comes to foolishness, we know that the children need to learn how to become wise, and that's our responsibility – using Proverbs and life experiences to teach our children wisdom.

When children are competing to be first or best, we want to teach them how to be servants.  These three solutions give us the target that we need, as parents, and we can start moving our discipline in those directions to help our children overcome the three roadblocks to sibling harmony.

Dennis: Okay, let's say you have two teenage daughters, JoAnn, and they are battling over sharing clothing with one another, okay, just for the sake of illustration.  This would never happen our house.

Bob: Taken from a real-life illustration recently in the Rainey home, right?

Dennis: How do you handle sibling harmony around one child who wants to borrow, the other child who doesn't want to share?

JoAnn: Well, that's a very common problem, I think.  It's not just clothes, but there are a lot of things in life that children want to borrow, but they don't want to share.  It's a good problem.  And, certainly, the answer to that is teaching children to be servants, to go ahead and think of what the other person needs and be kind and generous in that way.  You want to be proactive, I think, in a situation like that, because we want to be teaching servanthood all along.  Then when you come up with a problem like that, we've got a specific problem when children are fighting over something, what we want to do is address it head-on.  Take the two children and talk to each one of them.  Have them sit down and talk it out.  We want to teach our children how to negotiate, how to compromise, how to work through a problem, how to talk about it.  So we're not solving the problem for them, but we're teaching them how to solve that kind of a problem.

 You see, we want to give our children the skills they need to resolve conflict.  Even when they get older, they're going to need the same skills, they're going to run into similar problems.  So now we have them as children, we're going to teach them those conflict-management skills, and so we might have them talk it out, but we're listening.  We're listening to how they're doing it, the words they're using.  If we see some manipulation, some inappropriate things, we're going to step in, call them out and say, "Wait a minute.  The way you're talking right now isn't really helpful."  Or maybe we see one child overpowering another.  We want to address both of the children in that sense.  So we want to teach them how to negotiate through the problem.

Bob: Some kids are naturally better negotiators, they're better arbiters in this situation, and they can use that to take advantage of a brother or sister every time you sit down for that process, can't they?

JoAnn: That's right, and that's why we want to be listening.  We're not just saying, "You guys go solve that problem."  But we're having them sit down where we can hear, and we can listen.  We're not going to jump in when we don't need to.  We're not going to solve the problem, but we're going to coach each child through that situation so they can be better equipped.

Bob: And I'm assuming that if, in that dialog between two children, anger begins to escalate, and we step in, right?

JoAnn: That's right.  We don't want children to be abusive with their anger, to come on too strong with one another when – again, we're teaching them how to resolve conflict and sometimes in a conflict situation we get angry, we need to take a break.  "All right, let's just get out of this situation for a minute, calm down, then we'll come back and talk about it again."  So we might call kind of a recess from the discussion, and then call them back again.  "Okay, let's work on this some more."  So we're not going to just let it go unresolved, but we may take some time to do it.

Bob: You know, Scott, she's got two kids.  I mean, how hard can that be if all you've got around the house is two kids.  You've got five kids at home.  You could spend your entire life as a parent in the People's Court, you know, arbitrating conflict between children.  And some days you just go, "I can't just keep doing this thing over and over again."

Scott: You know, often, when we have two children that are fighting, what we have is two selfish children.  Unfortunately, some parents step in and try to play Solomon – what happened here, who had it first, and try to figure out all the details.  We find that to be not as productive as coming into the situation, separating the children and asking a question – "What did you do wrong?"

 When two children are fighting, both of them have done something wrong.  I don't care who started it.  Even if a child is initiating dishonor in a relationship, the other child needs to know how to respond in that situation.  So we're going to coach each child independently because each child has their own unique way of displaying selfishness.  And, furthermore, they have to relate to other children who agreeably are irritating and annoying.  So we can identify with the one child and say, "Look, I know that your brother is annoying sometimes, and it's frustrating to deal with him, but we have to look for a way that you can relate to him that's honoring without hurting him, without creating more problems, and so I'm going to give you some ideas.  Here is what I suggest you do," and so on.

Dennis: You know, I've found, with sibling rivalry, what children have to have at those points, whether they're three and four years old and battling a younger brother or sister, or whether they're teenagers and find themselves in a repeated situation where an older brother is constantly picking on a younger brother.  The key is to do what you talked about here, Scott, is to use these opportunities as a classroom to train our children in how to resolve conflict and teach them the importance that you've taught all this week on the broadcast – the importance of honoring their brother, honoring their sister.

Bob: What about tattling?  What do you do when a child comes in and says, "Mom, Dad, Keith won't let me play on the bag swing, and he's had four turns and won't let me have a turn."

JoAnn: You know, that's a great question, because tattling is a common problem and parents often – they don't know what to do with it.  Who do you put in trouble, then, you know, when one is tattling on another, and we want to take a different approach.  We want to look at the problem, even as an adult problem, sometimes we see something going on, something wrong in a situation, and what is the adult response to that, what's the biblical response?  Well, we can look in Matthew, and we see that when there's conflict, the first thing you do is try to work it out together.  That's what Jesus teaches, you work it out together, and if that doesn't work, then you get a third person involved.

 So we want to teach that to children.  Now, some offenses you just can work out yourselves.  You don't need to get a parent involved.  Sometimes that's not working, your brother's not cooperating.  You're trying to work it out with your brother, he's not cooperating, then it's the right thing to do to get Mom or Dad involved, getting that third person involved to help resolve the conflict.  That's not tattling, it's a biblical solution.

Dennis: Sometimes what they're trying to do, though, and I watch this occur repeatedly, is they're trying to pull Mom or Dad into the vortex of this battle, because they're wanting the adult there to get their younger sibling or their older sibling in trouble by tattling on them.  And what Barbara and I had to realize is a lot of this just needs to be ignored and press them back to the relationship and say, "No, you need to deal with this with your brother" or with your sister.

Bob: We had a rule we applied around our house, which was when a child would come to tell on something another child was doing, we would ask the question, "Is the child in danger or is there anything life-threatening about the behavior?"  And if they said, "No," then we said, "Okay, then go back and work it out."  In other words, you can come tell us about something the other child is doing.  If you think, you know, if Jimmy is on the roof, and he may fall off and kill himself, then we need to know about that.  But if Keith won't let you play on the bag swing, then you just need to go figure out how to work that one out on your own.

JoAnn: That's right, and often when a child comes to us tattling on another child, the first thing we say is "Did you try and work it out?"  Because we tell children if you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem, and we want children to get a vision for either solving it or ignoring it and only reporting it, as you said, when someone is really in danger.

Dennis: Is bossiness akin to tattling?  Is it similar?

JoAnn: Well, bossiness is part of the same problem here, wanting to be first or best, we're trying to puff ourselves up and sometimes it means putting others down, sometimes it just means focusing on ourselves, but it's still a problem that needs to be addressed by teaching children to be servants.  You're looking for ways to build other people up – not yourself, and that's what we really want to be teaching children.

Dennis: The way this came out in our family on more than one occasion is when the older children became the parents of the younger children, and I mean the number of times we'd have to say, "You know what?  We are the parent.  You are the child.  We appreciate your advice, your counsel, and your encouragement to want to help this child that you're pointing out has a problem to grow up, but you're not the parent.  We are responsible.  You can trust us that we will make an appropriate decision. 

Scott: I think, Dennis, that in those situations, those kids need to learn how to parent, and we have an opportunity to do that, but sometimes they do it in the wrong way.  If we can listen to our children criticize our parenting, we've taken a huge leap in maturity.  Our children often, as they become teenagers, have all kinds of opinions about how we don't treat little brother the way we treated big sister.  If we can listen to them and then say, "Look, you're going to have an opportunity when you get to be a mom or a dad to make decisions, and you're going to want to keep this in mind, but I've got to make the decision here before God, and I'm choosing to do it this way.  I'll take into account what you've said, but I've got to make decisions, and this is what I believe God wants me to do in this situation.

 I believe that in doing that, we're honoring our young person.  We're also giving them a window into our value system, why we're choosing to do what we're doing, and we're actually investing in their future parenthood.

Dennis: You know, whatever the issue is, the way in which it's presented is key and, children, I don't know where they learn to whine, but they all have that as an innate skill taking the tone of their voice and manipulating it so that it has this annoying whine in it.

Scott: One of the things we're trying to do here, Bob, is we're trying to separate the issue from the process.  The child who has an issue of being hungry and wanting a snack needs to also consider the process by which they are communicating that.  We believe that the process is very important because the process deals with honor.  Our children have all kinds of issues, and often they're right, but we don't believe being right is enough.  You also have to be wise.

 Being right gets you to be a critical person.  We believe that honor is so important because it allows people to communicate the fact that they're right in a way that other people are able to accept. 

Dennis: This issue of whining is – well, for young families, is a huge issue.  In fact, I mentioned that we were going to be doing these broadcasts to some young moms who were in a small group that I was speaking to, and, I mean, it was as though I had hooked them up to electricity.  They all moved to the edges of their seat, their eyes became wide open, it was like "Absolutely.  We can use help here."  Whining is a huge issue in raising children.  They need help.

 You speak, JoAnn, in the book about how whining is tricking the adult to try to get their way. 

JoAnn: Yes, we say that whining is a manipulative technique used by children to trick their parents into doing something, and we've even had a mom tell us that she's used those words with her child.  When the child was whining, the mom said, "I can tell you're trying to trick me into doing what you want, but it's not going to work."  You see, we want to point it out to children.  They don't see it; they don't hear it.  Now, sometimes parents will join in the dishonor, and they'll whine right back at their children.  We don't think that's all that helpful, but we want to point it out with words that children can understand, "That voice you're using is not the right voice, it's not honoring."  Have them do it again. 

 Sometimes we see that it's a pattern for children.  We want to stop them as soon as they start it.  Send them away, maybe, to take a break or something else that's going on and then come back, want to try it again.  We also want to address the heart level issue as well.  It's not just the behavior we're dealing with.  Maybe it's a demandingness in their heart.  They're trying to get their way any way they can, and they may use their voice to do it.  So we also want to point out the demandingness in their heart and ask them to make some changes in that area as well.

Bob: You talk about getting them to stop it immediately.  You have what you call "the stop rule."  Is that what you're talking about?

JoAnn: Well, we have a stop rule, but I'm not sure that the parent is going to use that for whining.  Let me just take a minute here to talk about the stop rule and deal with that.  When children are involved in teasing, tickling, annoying behaviors.  You know, sometimes they're having fun, everybody's playing tag, and they're kind of playing around with each other, and then somebody wants to stop but that doesn't mean the other person wants to stop.  And so the first person is irritated because they're trying to stop the game, and the other one is still playing.  You know, maybe they're playing with water guns or they're playing tickling games or whatever it is – they're wrestling – somebody wants to stop, and the other one doesn't.

 So we have a stop rule.  Any child can say "Stop," and that's the end of the game.  It works for parents, too.  If children – maybe dad is tickling his son, and they're having a grand time wrestling around tickling, and the child wants to be done.  He can say "Stop."  We want Dad to be able to stop.  Teach your children the value of their words; that people should be listening to them when they use their words, and they don't need other manipulative techniques to get their point across, their words are enough.

Bob: And the stop rule, does that mean it stops for an indefinite period?  I mean, here is what I've had happen.  The kids are tickling, and it gets out of hand, and one of them says, "Okay, stop," and I say, "Okay, stop."  And then a minute later they want to re-engage the same game.  And I'm going, I don't want to go there because it's just going to be a constant challenge of start-stop, start-stop, and get carried away.

JoAnn: Sometimes they use the stop rule just to get the upper hand.  As soon as they're back on their feet, they're ready to join in again, and that's kind of an abuse of the stop rule.

Dennis: And so what do you do when a child either doesn't honor the other person's request to stop or starts in again.  What do you do then?

JoAnn: Well, I think, as a parent, we need to be ready to step in.  So what this stop rule does is, it levels the playing field so one child can't be overpowering another child consistently.  But the parent is ready to enforce that.  One child says "Stop," the other one needs to listening to that stop, or the parent is going to step in and discipline.

 It teaches children what's appropriate about personal boundaries.  You know, I know when my boys were young, we had a stop rule, and sometimes they'd have a babysitter come over who would start tickling them, and they'd say "Stop," and the babysitter didn't know the stop rule; the babysitter didn't stop.  My boys knew something was wrong here.  You know, "Don't you know the stop rule," they'd say?

Dennis: You know, whether it's a bad attitude, bossiness, tattling, whining, sibling rivalry or sibling harmony, as we've talked about here on the broadcast, parents get worn down, and we need encouragement.  And I just want to say thanks to you, Scott and JoAnn, for kind of coming alongside all the parents who listen to the broadcast and many who want to be parents, some single folks who listen to this broadcast who have taken note of how you handle some of life's more challenging circumstances in raising children.  And, personally, I want to say thanks for your work in writing this book and in being on the broadcast.  You all have been a great resource this week on FamilyLife Today.

Scott: Thank you very much for having us here.

JoAnn: We've really enjoyed being here, thank you.

Bob: Well, and we've enjoyed having you guys, and I want to encourage our listeners to get a copy of your book.  Again, it's called "Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids," and I wish we'd had time to talk more about what's in your new book, which is called "Parenting is Heart Work."  We have both of these books in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and if you'd like to go online at, you can click the button that says "Go," which is in the center of the screen, a little red button.  That will take you right to the page where you can get more information about both of Scott and JoAnn's books.  We also have some files you can download that we've talked about already this week.  There's more information available there.

 If you are interested in both of these books, we can send along at no additional cost the two-CD audio of our conversation this week with Scott and JoAnn, and you can review the material together with your spouse, or you can pass it along to someone else who might benefit from listening to these programs.

 Again, the website is  The button in the middle of the screen is the red button, and you click on that, and it will take you right to the page where you can order these resources.  Or, if it's easier, just call us – 1-800-358-6329.  That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we've got folks who are ready to take your call and let you know how you can have these resources sent out to you.

 Now, I need to let you know that we need your help during the month of May.  We have had some friends who have come to us here at FamilyLife with a very generous offer this month.  They have said that they would match any donation we receive from FamilyLife Today listeners during May on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to a total of $350,000.  Now, we have a shot at being able to take full advantage of that matching gift, but for that to happen we need as many listeners as possible to make a donation either online at or by calling 1-800-FLTODAY.  Make a donation of any amount, and when you do that donation will automatically be doubled.  We're hoping that by the end of the month we'll have had enough of those donations to take full advantage of the $350,000 matching gift.

 Again, you can donate online, if you'd like, at  You can call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation, and it will really help us out here at FamilyLife.  We're listener-supported, and the donations you make are what keep us on the air even during the summer months when donations are off and a little behind what they normally are.  So if you would call us today and make a donation or go to the website at and donate online, we would like to say thank you in advance for doing that and pray for us as well.  Pray that we'll be able to take full advantage of this matching gift opportunity.

 We hope you have a great weekend; hope you and your family are able to worship together in church this weekend, and we hope you can be back with us on Monday.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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