Photo by Zhu Liang on Unsplash
Photo by Zhu Liang on Unsplash

Sibling Discord


We have a 12-year-old daughter who is a good child but who can be very unkind and unloving to her siblings.  She doesn’t like it when they are unkind to her and says she’s sorry but there is no change in her behavior.  Is there a way we can help her become changed and not just behaving different?


One of the most important tasks of a parent is to, in the words of James 1:22-23, help our kids to not merely be hearers of the word but to be doers of the word.  To actually demonstrate and practice it.  This can be challenging for us and in some ways it can be even more challenging for our children.

The best way to get our kids to live out the truths we are trying to teach them is always for them to see us practicing them ourselves.  Andrew Murray said it well, “Not in what we say and teach, but in what we are and do, lies the power of training.  Not as we think of an ideal for training our children, but as we live do we train them.  It is not our wishes or our theory, but our will and our practice that really train.  It is by living the Christ-life that we prove that we love it, that we have it;’ and thus will influence the young mind to love it and have it, too.”

One great way to help your daughter move from being a hearer to a doer is to practice the application of Scripture with her.  For example, how can we help our kids learn what it looks like to “do” the fruit of the Spirit?  Sit down as a family and read Galatians 5:22-23 from several different translations.

Then, taking the first trait of love, read other scriptures where love is mentioned, look it up in the dictionary (or in Wikipedia) and then as a family write out your own definition.  Then go beyond a “head” focus to a “heart” focus.  Discuss ways they’ve seen love in action, what it feels like when they are loved and how good it feels when they’ve been loving to others.  Make sure it’s not just an intellectual discussion and take time to let each of them share.

The next step can be the most fun.  Take time for each person in the family to write down and discuss specific ways that they can demonstrate love in the coming week.  It becomes even more interesting and instructive when you encourage each person to keep track of when they saw another family member being loving.  At the end of the week get together a talk about what each family member learned.

As you consistently model truth for your family, as you demonstrate a visible love for God and for His Word and His people, you are much more likely to see your daughter and the rest of your kids reflect the difference that only our Lord can make in a life.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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