Many of us have heard the story of Jacob and Esau. It’s often referenced when thinking about sibling relationships, or family dynamics in general, and how messy they can be.
Jacob and Esau’s tale speaks to the reality that no family is perfect and that familial relationships can be a challenge. Yet part of this story has always bugged me. Through their actions, Isaac and Rebecca propelled their sons’ brotherly relationship into a space of competition and deception.
With intentionality, parents can nurture children into the people God has created and called them to be. Part of how we can do that is by not playing favorites or comparing our children to one another.
Refrain from labeling your kids with comments such as “She’s my athletic one” or “He’s my shy child.” Such expressions, if overheard, can set a competitive tone among siblings for attention. Labeling unintentionally places a child in a box of our own making. Without meaning to, it can put pressure on them to feel as if there isn’t freedom to grow and explore various interests.
Part of this story has always bugged me. Through their actions, Isaac and Rebecca propelled their sons’ brotherly relationship into a space of competition and deception.
Though each child has different needs according to temperament and character, your children also will benefit from observing you maintain fairness in the way you distribute rewards or employ gentle discipline.
It’s impossible to be the perfect parent. And yet, the good news that comes to us in the story of Isaac and Rebecca is that God doesn’t require our perfection as parents to work in our children’s lives. Later, as adults, Jacob and Esau find each other and reconcile. What’s more, God is active in our kids’ lives and has blessings in mind for them that aren’t limited by us.
There’s no doubt that God has created each of the kids in our lives uniquely, and there are certainly some things that make our hearts sing from a young age. As we explore what we can do as parents to continue to support our children in growing into the fullness of their God-given identities, may we also know that God is still active in our lives, too, growing us and working in us according to God’s good and gracious will.
Affirm the gifts your children have, rather than the activities they participate in. Instead of “You’re a great soccer player,” try phrases such as “I noticed your teamwork today” or “I love watching you work hard on the soccer field.”
Mark your children with the sign of the cross at bedtime. Remind them that their worth is not in what they do but in who they are: “You are a child of God. Keep shining your light!”
Find opportunities to support teamwork and collaboration. Give siblings a joint goal to get the laundry folded or the dishwasher emptied. You might also find a game that requires them to work together to be successful.