No, I had it first.
But it’s mine.
I was already playing with it.
Get your own. This one is miiiiiiine.
In unison: Moooooooooooommy!!
Anything like that ever happened in your home? Squabbling over toys or space or other possessions sometimes seems to be a daily battle for us. It’s more than just toys, of course. Underneath the bickering is a heart issue — maybe selfishness, maybe jealousy, maybe fear or defiance or unkindness.
In Loving the Little Years, Rachel Jankovic shares great insight into these types of situations.
The Jankovics always ask:
What’s more important: this toy or your relationship with your brother?
Rachel’s point is that things “are not to come between us in fellowship. Ever.”
Since reading that phrase, it is one I have used time and time again with my children because relationships are always more important than things.
As believers in Jesus, we are to “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Romans 14:9).
Romans 12:17-18 reminds us:
“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
These are great verses to share with our children. They take away the finger pointing and blaming and tell us to do all that we can to make things right. These verses remind us of our own responsibility to show honor to others.
“Every time your children have a conflict about a toy, they are breaking fellowship. If you step in and redistribute the toy, but don’t address the unkindness or selfishness or envy, you allow that to stay between them. It is sort of like trying to get rid of a dandelion by shaking the seeds all over your garden. There we go. Solved that problem. Until later this afternoon” (Loving the Little Years, emphasis mine).
Using this phrase, asking that question, doesn’t neglect the issue of the toy, it first addresses the deeper issue. We need to teach our children to deal well with one another and look to their own hearts and fellowship with others.
Once fellowship is restored, details of the toy can be discussed.
Rachel gives her children an opportunity to try handling the situation again. If squabbling continues and they just. can’t. treat each other kindly because of the toy, she’ll talk with them about getting rid of it, using the right tone of voice, of course.
“Now the point of this is not to rush to the “I will throw away all the toys if you ever fuss again” kind of moment. And none of it should be spoken through your teeth with your lips not even moving. And it shouldn’t be a bluff or a threat, and you are not offering to throw it away out of spite. The point of it is to show your children that you value their relationship to each other, and expect them to also. If there is something that is getting between them, we need to fix that, one way or another—make it clear to them, that you want to see a change in their hearts. Grabby hands come from grabby hearts” (Loving the Little Years, emphasis mine).
Friends, parenting this way will take a lot more effort and time and even sacrifice on our part but in the end, the attention and the energy we invest will far outweigh the present sacrifice — or annoyance.
We have an opportunity to dig out weeds from the root, not just pull the top off for it to grow back again and again. God has given us the responsibility of training our kids well and these types of arguments are another opportunity to do that.
I know it’s frustrating and irritating and we wonder if they will ever “get it”! But do not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).
Question for you: What is your typical response to arguments over toys? How do you help teach your children to share?
Rachel has some great tips about dealing with grabby hands and grabby hearts and great principles to apply to sharing. If you haven’t read Loving the Little Years, I think you’ll find it encouraging and practical. If you’ve read it but still struggle with this issue in your home, check out chapter 20 for a few great tips.