Developing Lasting Sibling Relationships and Why It’s Important
You better figure out a way to get along, because one day, when your Mother and I are gone, you guys will only have each other, guaranteed to care about you in this world.
I heard this so many times growing up, I could probably repeat it in my sleep. Every time my brother and I would fight, once the dust cleared, this would be Dad’s response. We were only guaranteed to have each other, so we better figure it out. Knock-down, drag-out sibling rivalry is nothing new. I suspect even the cave men had their versions of “Gottcha Last” and “I’m Not Touching You…” just to rile up their brothers and sisters. But when push comes to shove, our brothers and sisters are the ones that know us the best and have seen us at our worst.
As an adult looking back, I know my dad was right, and I want to instill those same ideas in my 3 kiddos. I want to foster a deep, caring, and most importantly, lasting relationship between my children. Even on the best days, this can feel like a daunting task. Like most siblings, some days they are the best of friends and two seconds later they are the worst enemies. At 5,4, and 2 years old, they are very close in age which is awesome and terrible at the same time. Like most children, they can play happily for some time together, then suddenly, the sh** will hit the fan (as they say) and then I’ll spend another 1/2 cleaning up the tears and hurt feelings.
So, what can we do to help our children figure out how to get along on a daily basis, while helping them develop a lasting relationship? Why is it so important?
- Try to refrain from “saving the day.” If we, as parents, swoop in every time our children raise their voices, or disagree with each other, then they will never figure out basic negotiation skills. They won’t be able to figure out how to compromise, or when it is a good time to just walk away. If we intervene every time there is a disagreement, we are taking away the opportunity for them to work it out themselves. Rather, keeping a eye (or ear) on the situation from a distance gives them the freedom to try and figure it out. If you need to intervene (perhaps biting may be involved…) you can jump in and model how to handle the situation.
- Assign chores that require more than one person to complete. Working together to figure out how to get a job done works wonders for bringing people together. You share a common goal, even if it is to get the chore done with as little effort and as fast as possible. It is a common goal nonetheless. This is easier to do when they are younger, simply because they are little and need more assistance, but definitely doable as they get older to, get creative.
- Be the villain (voluntarily). Nothing brings kids closer together than plotting revenge on their parents. Some of my favorite memories involve being huddled together with my brother, sharing our latest stories about how “Mom and Dad are sooooo unfair!” and “Can you believe they are making us do this???” Giving your children a common enemy (that isn’t each other or another sibling) can work wonders to bring them together and foster a lasting relationship.
- Remember, time apart is good too. Since my kiddos are still so young, we tend to always, I mean always, be in the same room together. It is just recently that one, or another will wander up to their room or to another room to play on their own. This is such a new thing for me because I’ve always felt I’ve had to keep them under a bit of a watchful eye, being so young. But now, they two oldest are finally (semi) trustworthy enough to play quietly in their room on their own. I really feel this is a good thing, too much togetherness can put everyone on edge and wear on your nerves.
- Forced togetherness is okay too. You have probably seen some of the pictures that creative parents have put on online of helping their children figure out how to “get-along.” Here are a few examples:
The “Get-Along” Shirt
Forcing children to be together, whether it is family trips, family game night, or attending the dreaded family reunion shows children that time together as a family is an important and valuable thing, despite the grumbles you may hear (especially from your favorite little teenagers…). Check out this post Easy Ideas for Family Time to get you started on some fun (and inexpensive) ideas.
If you would like further reading, here are some great websites:
Empowering Parents– “Sibling Fighting- 5 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Get Along”
Focus on the Family– “Encouraging Siblings to Get Along”
Mayo Clinic-“Sibling Rivalry:Helping your children get along”
Taking the time and effort to help your children get along will allow them to develop deep and lasting relationships with each other. After all, isn’t that what we want for our children, to know that once we are gone, they will always have each other?