Sibling relationships should be the sweetest of relationships next to those of a husband and wife and a parent and child. But watching the way young siblings often treat each other, one sometimes wonders if it is possible for them to move into their adult years with close relationships. We have delighted in watching this very process happen in our home between our eight children, and we want to encourage you that it is possible. Here are links to the first five articles in this series in case you haven’t read them.
In the previous articles, I shared all that Steve and I can recall that we purposely did to promote strong sibling relationships. We even asked our family for their input as to what they felt made a difference in their development of strong sibling ties. We give all the praise to the Lord Jesus because we know that anything we do that ends up good is only because of His grace in our lives.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). Just as we were continually crying out to the Lord for His wisdom in how to deal with problems between the children, we suggest that you do the same thing.
In this article, we want to share what others have done to build sibling relationships. I asked the Corners readers to share their suggestions. Here is what they had to say.
“Have them pray for the person they are struggling with.” Shera
“Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” (Luke 6:28)
“My idea for siblings is that I put on my children’s weekly lesson plans that they are to serve one person of the family in some way each day—to bless them. Monday is one sister, Tuesday is another, etc. The children love finding ways to serve their parents or siblings in this way. I think it helps develop a servant’s heart for Christ and helps keep peace between each other as we serve one another. They love to surprise each other with what they have done to help and serve. Sometimes they do a certain chore, clean a closet, or wash cars. They also love to do it in secret so they aren’t discovered. This is one of the proactive ways we attempt to avoid sibling rivalry and fighting.” Carolyn
“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)
“I have three boys who are 9, 8, and 5, and a baby girl of 18 months. My boys are really struggling with this issue of kindness to each other right now. One of the things I have been doing because it can be applied quickly is this, ‘Try again.’ If I hear one of them saying something not nice to another, I will call out, ‘Try again.’ They have one minute to say something nice to the person they offended with their words. If they fail to say something kind in one minute, they get a swig of apple cider vinegar. It’s a substance that is good for them, but tastes terrible to ‘wash’ out the mean words from their mouths.” Shauna
“The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.” (Ecclesiastes 10:12)
I also asked some of my friends for their ideas beyond what I had already shared. These are moms who have older children with the kind of sibling relationships I believe you want your children to have. Their credentials prove the substance of what they have to say.
“We wanted to teach our girls to love each other so we came up with a plan. On Monday they needed to serve one another. Tuesday was edification day so they wrote encouraging letters or notes to one another. Wednesday they were to defer to someone other than their own self. For example, in our home, the oldest always sat in the front seat when that seat was available, so on Wednesday she might defer that seat to a younger sibling. Thursday was gift-giving day, and it could cover just about anything you consider a gift. They might make something for someone, or they could give of their time. Friday they prayed with each another and did a devotion together. This encouraged our girls to think about others, not just themselves, which we believe is key in relationships.” Tammy
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” (Romans 12:10)
“We love working on our farm together side by side. This has definitely helped in sibling relationships. My husband and I will often break the children into ‘groups’ to encourage sibling relationships. The groups change often.
Today my eighteen-year-old daughter and her fourteen-year-old brother went to the local feed and seed store to get more plants, do errands, and be together. My daughter said to me this evening, ‘Mom, I had so much fun with my brother this afternoon!’ I am glad they want to spend time together. “Today, I was with my seventeen-year-old son and four-year-old daughter all afternoon giving lawn estimates due to my son’s lawn business. We had fun and even slipped in a cold soda break at McDonald’s. My son has a very thriving lawn business. The family rule is that he cannot work alone. A sibling or parent must work alongside of him every day he cuts. This has been very profitable for building sibling relationships. My older daughter even works for the lawn business every Wednesday!
“Also, our children share rooms with someone. This has proven to be fun—at least for the girls! We have purposely limited the amount of time our children spend with other families and friends. Truly, my children really have no outside friends—just their brothers and sisters as friends.” Teresa
“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
“We never let our children pretend evil or fight against each other. We didn’t want the children to develop the mentality of ‘being against each other’ but wanted them to always love, help, and support each other.” Becky
“Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22)
“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.” (1 Peter 3:8)
I hope that when your heart is discouraged because you have just witnessed a brother grab his sister’s toy, you will stop to pray. Ask the Lord to give you the courage and strength to deal one more time with the same kind of situation you have often dealt with in the past weeks and maybe even earlier in the day. There will come a time when you will reap a fruitful harvest of brothers and sisters dwelling together in unity. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1). You will have no regrets that you persevered through weariness, discouragement, and even self-pity. “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing” (2 Thessalonians 3:13).