Refereeing Kids Who Won’t Get Along

By Joey & Carla Link

July 20, 2023

Do you ever feel like you are a referee with your kids? While it is natural for boys to wrestle with each other, it’s another thing when your kids are arguing and bickering with each other. When you are pulled into the middle of their fights, they expect you to pick a winner and a loser, a no- win situation for you. Maybe we should wear referee uniforms and blow a whistle when we see the poor choices our kids are making! 

I can imagine Jesus felt this way at times. During his last meal with his disciples at the “last supper” Jesus’s students (the disciples) started arguing which of them was going to be the greatest in heaven.  Just like a parent, Jesus had to step in and straighten them out! 

Jesus gave us a powerful teaching that every parent should teach their kids. You can read the story in John 13, where Jesus said to his disciples, “One of you is going to betray me.” The disciples wanted to know who would do such a thing. Jesus looks Judas in the eyes and said, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Judas leaves and Jesus goes on to give his disciples a command to live by; “Love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

So, what’s this powerful teaching? Love is more important than who is first. Love is more important than what show or movie you want to watch. Love is more important than getting your own way. Love is more important than getting the most time on the phone or iPad and it is more important than getting the biggest cupcake.

It’s one thing for kids to argue and bicker, but do they show love to each other at other times? Too many times parents only require their kids to accept one another which is good, but not best. Best is showing love to each other even when they are mad at them. The definition of love that I (Joey) have been carrying around in my head for many years is, “an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person.” How committed are your kids to each other? Are they more committed to other friends or teammates than they are to each other?

This is why, when our kids worked through the Repentance, Forgiveness and Restoration process, we would ask them how they were going to make their wrong right. When it involved one of their siblings, not only did they have to give back whatever they took away, they also had to commit to doing one nice thing for that sibling before they could move on to any other activity.

Teaching kids to love properly is a lengthy process because they, like us are selfish and self-focused. We all not only try to take care of ourselves first, in today’s emphasis on mental health, we are being told to do this. But when Jesus said to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) He isn’t telling us to love ourselves. It can be assumed He already knew we did this. Healthy self-love includes protecting yourself and taking care of your hygiene and dental needs. It doesn’t mean putting your needs above those of others.  

The best way to work with your kids to love one another just as much as they love themselves is to treat each other the way they want to be treated.

When your kids are squabbling with each other ask them, “How are you showing love to each other?” They might start pointing out how the “other” is not showing love to them. When our kids did this, we saw it as a great opportunity to have them sit alone in an isolated place until they came up with a way to show love to each other just like Jesus showed love to His disciples. 

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, 

but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

Matthew 7:3