*Refusing to Judge the Case. A popular author states in one of his books that parents “should never play judge and jury.” I disagree. Children need help and guidance to see how they are wrong. The assumption is that children use a judge/jury scenario to intentionally manipulate their parents. However, I believe they come to their parents for legitimate help (and if they are trying to manipulate their parents, then they need help with that, too). In my opinion, it is human nature to believe one is always right and to not see how we have sinned against one another. We like to blame each other, instead. Parents need to fairly, objectively, and patiently help children figure out what they cannot figure out on their own -- how to resolve conflict. As they age and mature, then begin to back off and give them time to work on the problem before intervention and begin training them on conflict resolution by asking questions to help guide them through the process. Initially, however, siblings need parental intervention. Left on their own, the conflict will remain unresolved or unsatisfactorily resolved, and the children will remain angry and hurt. They will feel unprotected. Over time, this builds incredible resentment, especially if one child is being bullied by another, physically or emotionally.
On the flip side, being the judge is exhausting and takes time. However, if you do so and do it fairly, over time, you will judge less because part of what you are doing is helping your children realize when they have sin in their lives that needs addressing, and thus, shaping their character.
Sometimes we are tired. Sometimes we are sick. Sometimes we are weary from being pulled in a million directions, but please don't shoo them away and tell them to "just work it out." Chances are, they won't, and they need your help and guidance.
Finally, if things are particularly heated, separating the children and hearing each side separately helps you know better who is at fault or how each is at fault and gives each side time to calm down. Nine times out of ten, both children in an argument are wrong in some way, and both will need to apologize to each other and perhaps receive appropriate discipline.
*Allowing Yourself to Be Manipulated. If you have a child who is manipulating you, the other children in the family will see it. Resentment will grow against the manipulator. Be on guard for manipulation. Don't let tears or temper tantrums influence YOUR decisions.
*Punishing All for the "Crimes" of One. If one child is being disobedient during the movie, do you turn it off and send all the children to their rooms? There are times when you have one child who is causing trouble, at the pool, for example, and you simply have to take everyone home. If at all possible, try not to do this. Perhaps call your spouse and have him pick the unruly one, or put just the one child in time out. If all must be disciplined because of the one, make the offender apologize to the others at an appropriate time. Encourage the others to forgive.
*Punishing One When Both Are Wrong. The LOUD child is the one who yells and screams when upset or offended. The NEEDLER is quiet and sneaky. Often the NEEDLER instigates, and the LOUD one throws a fit, hitting the NEEDLER, saying ugly words, or throwing things. Make sure BOTH are disciplined. It is easy to see the sin in the LOUD one, but the behavior of the NEEDLER is just as selfish and sinful. The manipulator, the passive aggressor, and the pleaser, the youngest and the oldest, the responsible one and the trouble maker, the smart one and the hyper one ... they all transgress.
*Showing Favorites. Don't do it. Help each child find their niche and gifts. Encourage and praise all your children's successes, no matter how small. Encourage them to praise each other.
*Comparing One Child to Another. "I don't know why you get such bad grades. Your sister always did well in school." OUCH.
*Trying to Make Everything Equal. If each child has to have exactly equal treatment and stuff, then each child will be constantly checking to make sure they have equal or more than their sibling(s). Then, when something is NOT equal, resentment starts to grow.
*Spending More Time with One Child. When you have a newborn, he or she requires lots of attention. When you have a young child, he or she needs extra help with reading and learning math. Try your best to stay aware of the time spent with each child and try to carve out time for each of them.
In all the scenarios above, children feel frustrated and resentful. However, they cannot take it out on their parents, especially when young. So the discontent and resentment grows in their hearts and is aimed straight at their siblings.
Don't forget to pray for wisdom for how you deal with your children, and pray for their relationships with each other.
Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. Proverbs 29:17 ESV
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11 ESV
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 ESV