Talking about building strong sibling relationships has spanned the course of many articles. Here is the link to the previous ones in this series if you have missed them.
As these articles began, I shared with you things that I remembered from our parenting days with younger children and the positive outcomes we have observed as our children grew to adulthood. Then I asked some of my friends with older children if they would give me their ideas and suggestions. Because they have children with good sibling relationships, what they have to say is proven to be effective. This article includes the final information that I have to give you from my friends.
Let me start with Anne.
Here are some of the ways the Lord has led my husband and I to build sibling relationships:
We always have told the children that they, and all children, are gifts from God and blessings from Him. When I asked the children this evening some of the things their dad and I have done to help their relationships, my oldest daughter said, “You always remind us that each of us is a gift to each other.” I also will encourage the children in front of each other and say, for example, “Isaac, Luke is so blessed to have you as his big brother!”
You mentioned praying for godly sibling relationships. I have spent much time in prayer privately, in church, and in our family devotions, for the siblings to have blessed relationships and be each others’ best friend.
I have also used reenacting. If there is a squabble, I will have the children reenact the entire event, but respond to each other in a godly manner, discussing the godly behavior prior to the reenactment.
After a disagreement, we will discuss what each sibling could have done that would have led to peace. Most of the time each individual could have done something that could have led to peace. I pray much for all of us to do what leads to peace.
When I notice that the children are consistently not being encouraging, I will put out jars with each sibling’s name on them. Each time someone says an encouraging word to another sibling, I put a piece of candy in the jar. We have dessert two times a week, so on dessert day, they get to eat extra sweets for being sweet! The older children still enjoy this :)!
Isaac said, “You always told us that we should look at our siblings as being more important than ourselves.”
I also would encourage the children with the golden rule/Scripture, to do unto others as we would have others do unto us. I have also suggested that they do to others as Jesus would do, or as they would do to Jesus.
I praise God for showing us many ways to build sibling relationships. We always try to do all things together. Also, if one child has an interest, we would all partake in learning about that interest through research, outings, etc.
The older children have taught the younger children singing, piano, voice, and help with home education. When this would happen, I would have the younger child give the older child a gift or treat with a thank you note.
Luke said, “If we didn’t treat our sibling in a godly way, there was a consequence.”
Morgan mentioned that having all of them work together on their business and saving up together to start the business has drawn them closer together.
We talk a lot together about issues, joys, and sorrows.
When one of the children is sick, I allow one of the others to take care of the sick individual.
Here is what Sandi told me.
I have been thinking a lot about sibling relationships since you have been writing about it in the Mom’s Corners. You have done a wonderful job with it. I wish I had something new to share with you about children getting along.
I can honestly say we don’t struggle much with the children fighting. Sure, the little ones will fight over a toy. We have done pretty much the same thing that you did with your children.
Shawn wanted to share a room with the younger boys like Christopher did, and Sabrina wanted to share with Emma. I think sharing a room is SO important. It encourages them not to be selfish. I loved sharing a room with my sister, and we are still close. Every night sounds like a party downstairs when the boys go to bed after Bible time.
The one thing we have always told the kids is that God knew just who their friends should be, and He made them their siblings. I think they get along so well because we do everything together. Mike and I have learned so much about forgiveness from watching how the children handle conflicts. It’s sad to say, but they handle it so much better than we do. Sabrina and Shawn really are best friends, and it is so interesting to watch them work through conflict. They work very closely together at the farm. At times they will have disagreements, but they work it out so quickly and forgive each other. Working together is so important. The farm has really been a blessing for that.
We also do what you guys did and limit time with other friends. I think it is key for siblings to get along. I remember growing up how sad I was when summer was over because my sisters were finally being nice to me. It got so much better with Sabrina when we took her out of ballet.
Finally, my friend Becky, who has been a widow for sixteen years, responded to my question concerning how she and her husband helped their children toward solid sibling relationships.
Stan’s wanting the kids to be on the “same team” applied to many areas in our parenting. For example, if they were playing cowboys, they were not allowed to have some of them be the good guys and some the bad guys. If they wanted imaginary bad guys maybe that was okay, but Stan felt if they teamed up AGAINST each other, that might carry over later in the day. Little ones can get mad easily sometimes at something that comes up later, and it would be easy to say “You’re the bad guy!”
In a more important spiritual sense, we’ve talked about how Satan wants to put the mom against the dad in a family, or Mom versus daughter, or older brother gets annoyed at the little brothers. We need to remember that is Satan’s PLAN.
Also an effective military strategy is to divide and conquer. If Satan can put a wedge between little brothers playing cars or Legos, he can do it when they’re older. It’s not me against my son, or one girl versus one brother, but we ALL need to realize it’s Satan versus the entire family—he’s trying to take us down and will do it any way he can. We need to band together and be strong! We taught our children to pray for each other, be accountable to each other, speak words of encouragement to each other. It is so amazing to my kids when they see families who are OBVIOUSLY NOT doing this! Some siblings they talk to seem very out of touch as to what their own family members are going through!
My heart’s desire is that this information will be an encouragement to the young mommies who are dealing with the constancy of little children’s selfishness toward their siblings. I realize that can be quite discouraging. I hope that these mommies will say in their hearts, “It is worth the investment of my time, prayer, and emotions to help these children toward strong, positive, lifelong sibling relationships.” “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore” (Psalms 133:1-3). May I encourage you to build that unity in your children’s lives?