One of the coolest things about parenting is seeing my kids grow up as best friends. I hope you are seeing that happen in your home.
What makes a good friendship develop between siblings? Does it happen automatically?
Maybe. But I believe there are ways for parents to foster good friendships between siblings.
Let them fight and learn to resolve fights
I was raised by parents who frowned on sibling fights, so when I had kids of my own and they got into verbal scuffles, it really bothered me. My husband, however, was raised in a family of four boys who fought constantly. He would try to calm my irritation by assuring me that it was natural for brothers and sisters to fight and we should just let them work it out.
And that’s what we did, to a certain degree. Obviously, when they are little, we have to referee their disagreements and help them learn how to get along with each other. But as they get older, it takes some parental self-control to not step in and stop every disagreement.
There were times when I’d let them work it out themselves and there were times when I stepped in and threatened consequences if they did not resolve the issue.
In either case, they learned that although family fights are normal, it does take work to resolve the conflict.
But the good thing is that the effort put into mending family conflicts can result in stronger family relationships.
Encourage lots of sibling time
While encouraging your children to make friends with other kids, be sure you allow enough time for your kids to be playmates by themselves. This is easy when they are little, but as they grow up, you must become more purposeful in scheduling fun sibling times.
Encourage them to work on projects, play games, go on bike rides, fix a meal, clean their rooms–together.
Send them to their rooms together to play quietly while you rest or work.
With school, sports, music lessons, and a host of extracurricular activities for kids, it is easy to let each child lead a life apart from siblings. Be intentional about encouraging sibling bonding time.
Don’t be a wet blanket on their silliness
If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know I am an advocate of silliness. But there can be a problem with silliness. Sometimes it’s messy and inconvenient and there are even times when you, as a parent, will become the butt of the silliness.
Can you handle that your kids may play jokes on you or laugh at your silly mistakes? I encourage you to let your kids “gang up” on you every now and then and refrain from throwing your wet blanket of parental sternness over their silliness.
My kids are older now and they often laugh at me, lovingly making fun of me. Their silliness bonds them and I know it is one of their ways of showing they love me. But what I love the most is that their laughter is a shared silliness that strengthens their friendship.
Teach them to respect each others differences
It is so important that our kids understand and appreciate that everyone’s talents and strengths are different.
Whether you have athletes, musicians, artists, or 4.0 students, you can help them respect each other’s differences by encouraging each one in their unique gift. Give as much of your time to the interests of the musician or artist as you do to the athlete.
If you do not express appreciation for the different talents of your kids, resentment can grow between them because they will feel they are competing for your love and attention.
Don’t compare them
This is a hard one because sometimes we use comparison to try to motivate our kids.
Your brother works out everyday, you need to do that too.
Why can’t you keep your room clean like your sister?
That strategy will backfire. Not only will it NOT motivate them, it will drive a wedge between them.
Encourage them to cheer for each other
They will be more likely to do this if you don’t compare them with each other and if you show them how you appreciate each one’s strengths.
Encourage them to attend each others’ games, concerts, recitals or whatever it is they do and be their brother or sister’s cheerleaders.
My kids made t-shirts with their siblings’ number and name on their shirt and often wore it to games. Even though they didn’t always like the sport, they would show support for their brother or sister.
Home sweet home
As my kids were growing up, I always told them, there’s enough people in this world that will be mean to you and cut you down, so let’s not bring that into our house. Our home should be a place where we feel encouraged and built up.
Are you helping your kids become good friends? What are you doing to make that happen?
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