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My Three Sibling Rules

My kids are wonderful.

This week we celebrated Father’s Day and it gave me some mental space to reflect on one of God’s best gifts – my kids.

Adam is creative, energetic, and consistently inquisitive about God’s world.
Ellie is generous, artistic, and resolute about EVERY decision.
Zachary is joyful, a quick learner, and loves cuddles.

All three unique and, praise baby Jesus, they look like their mother.

My family of 5 no longer fits in a booth at a restaurant. My kids are growing – and every part of their journey is a gift to watch. They are developing personalities, random habits, and special talents which bring a diversity to our family that make every day unique.

My kids are wonderful. But also, my kids are…well, kids. They occasionally sneak treats they aren’t supposed to have. They take each other’s toys and hide them. The whine when told they are out of screen time for the day. And, they would always choose pizza or fried chicken fingers over green beans and salad.

Honestly, I think you would agree, my kids are pretty normal.

But, the thing that irritates me the most is when they are unkind to each other. I have a brother. I know the temptation. Siblings are frustrating. I was to him; he was to me. But it drives me crazy when my kids pick on, make fun of, or are just plain mean to one another.

Some time ago, I began referring to our family as a tribe. For our family, “tribe” means a “community linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and language.” Our family is a tribe whose members are fiercely loyal to the benefit and protection of one another.

And there are rules for how we treat those in our tribe.

It started as a passing comment that followed a low-grade sibling conflict. On that occasion, I told Adam that God only gave him one sister and his job was to “protect, defend, and be her best friend.”

He rolled his eyes, and I exited the room.

But, over the years, the big three have become an almost constant song sung over the occasional sibling conflict at our home.

I want my kids to PROTECT one another. This means that they must respect each other’s physical space. They can’t use their size or strength to intimidate one other. We remind our kids frequently of the promises found in 2 Timothy 1:7, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Our kids protect one another by showing this spirit of love and self-control with one another.

I want my kids to DEFEND each other. This doesn’t mean physically, but through their words. Words matter in our house. In fact, I spend a lot of time saying “I take that back” for words too loosely spoken from my own mouth. We bless, not curse. We praise, not criticize. We want the language of our home to be rooted in Luke 6:45, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” I want the affection my children have for one another to be genuine, Spirit generated, which produces a culture where they each can be honest about fears and doubts, and they can receive words of hope in return.

Finally, I want my kids to be BEST FRIENDS. This doesn’t mean that their relationship with one another is perfect, but rather, they default to each other. They will have other friends, but when they return home I want them to foster a friendship between each other that lasts and is life giving. Siblings spend an enormous amount of time together; it is vital to the peace of a home that siblings find a way to move toward each other. I want them to know Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” I want their friendship to last a lifetime and for them to cling to one another when life is difficult and the world is chaotic.

Maybe these principles will be helpful for your family. They aren’t perfect and they don’t always work – but these always help focus our conversation as we guide our kids’ hearts.

Our tribe isn’t perfect – but it’s our tribe. I love what God is doing in the midst of it.

Chris Lawson

Founder of, husband to Merri, father to Adam, Ellie, and Zachary, and executive pastor @reynoldachurch. Lives to make Jesus famous. He enjoys watching the Atlanta Braves and UNC basketball, as well as demeaning and insulting whatever sports teams you root for. He knows a disturbing amount about television and movies.

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