During the years we have our children living in our homes, we have the ability to influence their relationships with each other. There is much that we can do to help them become best friends, learn to deal with conflict, and become each other’s greatest encouragers. If you haven’t read the other articles in this series, I suggest you do that before reading this one. Here is the link.
When I e-mailed several friends with grown children asking them what they felt had positively influenced their children’s sibling closeness, I received some excellent feedback. It both challenged and encouraged my heart. I think it will yours as well. I shared some of it last month, but I have more I want you to read.
“I see our children truly loving each other, and continuing to work at a close and spiritually connected relationship with each other, even once they leave home, and it is an incredible blessing. On the surface, I really have no idea WHY, other than the grace and kindness of the Lord. We did set up expectations of kindness from the time they were very small, that I honestly just thought EVERY family did. It was not until more time went on, and I observed more families, that I realized how different our children’s relationship with each other were. I have taken it for granted. So, again, I will read through your Corners, and pray, and think more because I don’t know that what we did was very intentional, but rather just biblical love and kindness extended to those closest to us—our family, first.” Debbie
Then Debbie followed up with this note:
“Well my friend, I’ve read all of the Corners in the Sibling Series and honestly, I cannot think of anything I did in addition to the things you mentioned. I found it fascinating how similar our approaches were/are with a few exceptions. I think many of the things we ‘stumbled’ into, sometimes for different reasons, but having a similar result. I was thinking how we limited outside friendships and outside activities. It was often for reasons unrelated to specifically choosing to work on building family closeness, but the result was family closeness. I think that is one side of it, eliminating part of the common cause for children’s discontent with family. The other side is dealing with the inborn sin nature we all have. Even if we never let our children play with anyone else, they would still be selfish and unkind and need to be taught and trained in biblical kindness and love. As you pointed out, we simply cannot afford to grow weary, as much as it is a temptation some days.
“I guess one thing I pondered on, and it is just an observation from our own family. I feel like we worked very, very hard on our first four children. Parenting just felt harder (more intense) with them. It was not that they were any more naughty, but maybe it was because I was younger and less experienced as a mother and was learning what works and what doesn’t. However, God was so kind to bless our work and perseverance, I think, and the younger children have had good examples to look up to. I think part of it being easier to train the younger ones now, is that they have wonderful examples to follow that the older ones did not have. The work I suppose DID pay off in that way, as well as just in the tremendous blessings you mentioned of having children who love each other, get along, are kind, and genuinely and cheerfully helpful.
“We always called it the trickle down effect. When an older child was kind to a younger child (and conversely if he was unkind), that child would treat the next one below him the same way, and down, and down, and down the line it went (and still goes). I have been known to use that, in my teaching and training after an incident.
“‘Do you realize, when you spoke that way to __A__, that __C__ was watching? And tomorrow, or the next day __C__ will then think it is okay to speak that way to __H___, and on down the line. You are setting an example, for good or evil, for all the siblings coming up behind you. You need to be so careful to be setting a godly example (or depending on the offense, I might give it a more specific name).’ I have found that when they really realize the ‘family’ impact of an action or an attitude, it has a bit more weight. They DO love their younger siblings and don’t want anyone else being unkind to ‘the baby’ for example. When they realize their potential part in being unkind to ‘the baby,’ it truly does bring a sober mind to the situation.
“When I really think on it, I believe one of the major things we did, that you’ve already mentioned, is simply not allow unkindness when we were aware of it. Like you, physical things were not tolerated – no hitting, kicking, biting, or throwing. Verbal unkindness was treated with the same seriousness. All those things, when the children were very young, we gave the children consequences for. We wanted to send a very clear message from the earliest time. People used to mock us for not allowing ‘kids to be kids.’ Well, our fruit is now much different from theirs, and I am grateful for the fruit we have.
“Of course, all of that was alongside giving Scriptural reasons WHY, though I wasn’t as thorough in that area as I wish I could be. My husband has always been better at that than I. We didn’t want the teaching to just be surface, outward behavior, but that God’s Word could get into them and do God’s work, which is so much more effective.
“I am so very aware that of course we did ‘something,’ but I just believe the fruit we have to this point, is by the grace of God. I know, because we regularly prayed James 1:5, that God gave us wisdom when we cried out for it, when we were SO stumped as to HOW to teach or train or deal with a certain behavior, that GOD gave wisdom.
“I wish I had more specifics to offer you to share, but honestly, we very much did as you did. Maybe you really have given your readers a good list of possible things God might use to help them, but I have found that people are often just wanting more and more suggestions and not really APPLYING what has already been given. They also need to be crying out to God with James 1:5 since every family situation is different, and God alone knows how to reach the heart of each individual child. We actually felt that on occasion, God did not allow us to ask advice of others so that we HAD to search it out for our own family. Other times, He seemed to allow it and gave us help through the wisdom and experience of others.
“Parenting is just plain HARD work, day after day after day for a very long time. But it is SO very, very worth it, when you see your children sincerely and faithfully walking with the Lord in very personal relationships with HIM. Seeing my older ones, encourages me to stay the course with my younger ones, and I still have plenty to work on.” Debbie
These are the years to be sowing seeds in your children’s lives that will produce strong life-time, sibling relationships. May I once again encourage you to be determined to set your heart on helping your children learn to communicate with each other, work together, and just be nice to each other. I believe they will thank you in the years to come.