Making Friends Part Five:
The Best Friend God Can Give you.
I distinctly remember a time growing up when my younger sister was chasing me with a belt, and I was ‘running for my life’. Such is the life of having siblings. One minute you are playing happily and the next, you’re pulling hair or plotting the ultimate revenge.
And I only had one sister.
Now to turn that on my own home, I have three boys, and let’s just say it’s like watching wrestle-mania in an active minefield.
But despite the conflicts, bloody noses, and screams there is something I always say to my kids about their siblings.
Your brothers are the best friends God gave you, are you treating them like one?
This usually spins things on the head, but encouraging good sibling relationships is a HUGE challenge.
Here are my top 11 Tips to encourage good sibling relationships you can find more at How to Encourage Good Sibling Relationships
1. Don’t compare your kids- as parents, we know this. We know how we do enough of the comparison game on our own that it doesn’t need to be cemented from an outside source. Each child is different, unique, and wired for the future God has planned for them. For me, this is what makes each child a miracle, for even with the same genetic material each one is unique.
2. Teach siblings to celebrate each other’s differences- This does not come naturally to my kids, and I’d argue most kids do. Usually, it is the differences between my kids that cause the biggest conflicts and name-calling.
3. Combat the name-calling with compliments. we have a couple of compliment jars around the house. If a kiddo speaks unkindly of a sibling, they have to pull four compliments out of the jar and read them (with positive inflection-yeah, you can say a compliment in a negative way <mom eye roll>) Because it takes four positive things to negate one negative.
4. Have them team up on chores- This is a great equalizer, especially for boys. When we see our boys not treating each other well or seeking conflict with one another. It is usually a sign they need some time together. Turning that time together into a chore, instead of a game or forced play time, removes the emotions because a chore is a to-do list with specific steps to get completed with minimal creative flexibility.
5. Build listening skills- Our family is trying to grow in this area. Our church’s marriage ministry (RE: engage) teaches a concept known as Speaker/Listener. It is a system of communicating that allows one speaker to complete their thoughts, and then the listener is supposed to respond with “I’m hearing you say…” Then the original speaker can affirm that they were heard correctly or try to communicate their thoughts in another way. It is a very good system for making sure negative interpretation doesn’t raise its ugly head.
6. Teach the importance of Respect- No, sometimes is an appropriate response. For me, this is a big one. Respecting siblings no or stopping is the first step in being a respectful man and husband. So, we talk a lot about when we say no and that when someone says no/stop it’s a hard stop.
7. Establish Room Rules. We’ve also set big boundaries on our kids’ rooms being a safe place. At times this is misused by a sibling, but I have to remember teaching is a process without immediate results most of the time.
8. Show them how to respectfully disagree- I feel this is something that is missing in our young culture. With how upset people get over a difference in opinion, we have lost the art of respectfully disagreeing. So, taking the time to teach the difference between fact and opinion is crucial. Because in celebrating our differences above we have to acknowledge that we each see the world a little differently because we were all made a little differently. Our worldviews, experiences, and relationships all feed into how we view our world. Just as every person is unique, so will our thoughts and experiences. But these differences teach our kids that we don’t have to agree with everyone, but we can do the same because Christ was kind and forgiving to us. Speak the truth in love but value the person over the perspective.
9. Vision cast the type of relationship they want to have as adults- This is something to do in a low-tide moment when the hot pot of emotion has cooled down. But having our kids think through what builds a good relationship and helping siblings understand and support one another are key steps in growing a family that will be stronger when your kids are adults.
10. Make time for fun- This is where memories are made. The fun moments are the ones that help remind us of the joy of family and the blessings siblings can be.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. Pinterest Ideas abound, just remember that it doesn’t have to look perfect it just has to be fun.
Here is one list of ideas from Childhood101 25 Ways to Have Fun as a Family
These are all great steps, but one thing for us as parents to (11) accept is that relationships take time. Most times our siblings/family push our frustration buttons the most because they are the ones that installed it.
Just like any long-term relationship it will ebb and flow. There will be highs and lows, but instilling a sense of family and unity among siblings is important.
How do you foster sibling relationships in your home?