Nurturing Strong Sibling Relationships
One of the biggest questions I get on this blog is about how to foster sibling relationships. And it really is such an important thing to consider. One of the things I cherish more than anything else in the whole wide world is my relationship with my siblings. And now as I watch the relationships of my own children grow, I’m so grateful they love each other!
Now, this doesn’t mean, by any stretch, that they don’t fight.
And slam doors like their mother does.
Sometimes we all need reminders like this when we see things on Instagram and blogs that make it look like people have life all figured out. I mean, one reader referred to the video of Max returning from a two-year mission for our church.
Now, of course THAT is going to be a reunion filled up to the brim with love.
I mean, he was gone for two years for crying out loud.
Just because I don’t always have a camera to capture the squabbling and not-so-nice behavior, believe me, it’s still there!
But deep down these kids genuinely like each other.
Helping kids learn to love each other and have genuine respect for one another is essential in raising strong families. So here we go…
7 Ideas To Foster Sibling Relationships
1) Build in proactive systems into family life to help kids learn to love each other.
Don’t just wait until you’re in the midst of a downward spiral of squabbling.
Some of these systems we have in place are here:
Kids who are arguing sit here (it can be a bench or a stair or two chairs…anything set aside for the purpose of being a “repenting bench”). The two that are “tangling” sit in this spot together and think about what THEY did wrong (yes, it’s easy peasy for them to think of what the other person did wrong, a little tougher to let go of their pride and admit their own wrong-doing). Once they figure out what they did wrong (sometimes it takes a while, but there’s always something), they exchange explanations of their wrong-doing, tell them they’re sorry, and commit to try not to do it again (I say try for obvious reasons…promising they won’t do it again would just be a lie. Ha!).
In my opinion this bench idea, (from my wise parents), is the single most important thing to help build strong relationships because those kids are going to fight whether we like it or not. The repenting bench is a built-in way to help build communication, knock down pride, teach repentance and forgiveness. Things we all need for positive relationships to flourish throughout life.
Call them what you want, but I think my sis-in-law Kristi said it best: “I think it’s so great to have a time or place where you can be vulnerable with your feelings in a safe environment and hear and share what’s in each other’s hearts while everyone is learning to respect and learn from those shared feelings.” Growing up we did this every Fast Sunday. We met in our Living Room and had the opportunity to share whatever we wanted. About the gospel, about each other, about our relationship with Christ. And the air was thick with love. I think that’s where I learned to adore my siblings so much. We do this with our family now and I feel that same thick love in such a beautiful way. Often growing up siblings would actually say one thing they loved about every sibling in the room. This took a while, but man did it ever strengthen relationships!
Family Dinner and Family Home Evening
We live in a society that is so filled up with hustle and bustle, and setting aside TIME to just be together and talk makes such a huge difference. When we take the time to sit down and eat together, even with just the dwindling numbers here at home, the most beautiful feeling in our kitchen. The other night I made a dramatic effort to guess what the girls’ “happies” and “sads” were for the day (something we talk about at dinner when we can), and it led to such a good discussion. Just being together (phones put away), is an amazing gift we can give our families. There is nothing like having a time set aside each day (or at least as much as possible), to develop relationships and bond.
2) Build a culture of respect and love.
Like it or now, kids mimic what their parents do. (Sometimes I cringe when my kids say something I know they learned from me…and other times I smile in gratitude.)
If we, as parents, give kids the benefit of the doubt, our kids will do the same to each other. I think it’s interesting that I have been a little impatient with Lucy lately. I’m not really frustrated at her, I think I just get frustrated at the situation sometimes (mostly due to her not being able to see things…SO not her fault…but I struggle to know how to deal with each new version of reality and sometimes it comes out as frustration). And when I stop to think about that I wonder if my frustration is fueling Claire’s sometimes-frustration.
3) Plan to put phones and technology aside every now and again.
I have said so much about technology (you can see lots of those posts HERE), because in some ways I think phones are ruining so much in society. (that sounds dramatic and sure, they’re good to a certain extent, but they are harming a bunch too). But for today, I’m telling you I think phones take so much away from sibling relationships! If phones are out of the picture, or off limits, at least for a little while, perhaps daily, perhaps just on Sundays, there is so much more time to communicate and just BE. And just BEing helps kids to develop relationships so much better.
4) Let kids be advisors to one another.
As kids have struggled with this or that, I’ve asked them to ask so-and-so for advice, or I’ve let one girl know what their sister is going through and asked if they could give some extra love and attention to that sister. Elle has been extra awesome at this being away at college, and has built those little sisters up a bunch from clear over in Hawaii and now from Florida, and Grace is following suit…all the way from Texas on her mission. Growing up my dad asked me a lot to keep an eye out for certain siblings he was worried about, and we did “Tutors and Tutees” (back HERE). When you serve someone, especially a sibling, you grow love for them exponentially.
5) Compliment kids in front of each other…
…and make sure to relay any kindness one kid may say about another to that child.
Tiny example from back when all the girls were home: Elle and Grace were looking at a picture of Claire, admiring her beauty. Claire was not around to hear those nice words, but was in the throes of junior high and needed some encouragement from time to time (still does, we all do, right??). So I made sure to let her know. To which news of course she beamed. Along with this I think it’s so important to have zero tolerance for anyone speaking unkindly of anyone else in the family. Ever. We are all a team, a team of builders. And we need to remember that. I love that on birthdays growing up we always had the opportunity at the dinner table to go around and say what we loved specifically about the birthday person. We still do it now in our family and it’s such a great way for kids to look for the best in their siblings and let them know.
6) Have a Family Mission Statement.
(or a Family Motto)…nothing like all working together for the same cause to bond. There is a post all about mission statements back HERE.
And, perhaps the very most important tip:
7) Realize you are not a failure if there isn’t peace and harmony all the time.
That would be impossible. We try to do all these built-in things and we still have the squabbling.
But that’s ok.
Fighting and disagreeing in a safe environment helps train kids for future disagreements with colleagues, spouses, friends, future children, you name it. We all just need to be trained, (I’m personally still being trained!…over and over and over), and what a better place to learn than in our own homes?
Sending out love and best wishes for helping to cultivate strong sibling relationships!
And also good vibes for a happy weekend.