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Despite my fears to the contrary during rearing, my children grew up to love their siblings and enjoy close relationships with one another.
I must admit, when personality conflicts arose, I wondered if it would ever be possible. I prayed myself through many a day, my heart truly desiring unity and strong bonding among my kids.
Since I had no siblings of my own, I researched the subject extensively, seeking the secret sauce for a close-knit family. The following is a list of tested ways to raise children to love their siblings, based on what I’ve experienced to be true with my own children
1. Family first
Although some friendships last years, the family is linked for life. We spend Christmas, Easter, and funerals together – thus, the importance of developing strong bonds.
Setting boundaries is a must in order for this to work.
Establish family night
Establish a non-negotiable family night once a week. The noise and influence of the outside world will always be accessible, but our kids remain under our protective influence for only a little while. Birthday parties, sleepovers, and play dates will come around again (believe me if you have more than 2 kids, you’ll be swamped) so be choosy.
Some children will protest loudly when they are made to reject an offer for air soft or mega bounce house. They will not die, and neither will you (although they’ll try to kill you with whining).
Don’t cave. Keep building those family bonds.
It’s ok to bring friends along sometimes, but if we only have one vacation per year, it’s worth giving pause.
If our kid’s only choices are each other, they learn to play together! That’s the fun of working out relationships!
We look back on our family vacations with fondness – so many inside jokes and chuckles from funny misadventures.
Those memories are irreplaceable and while we built memories, the kids built friendships – with each other.
2. Foster loyalty among siblings
A young mom once gave me a piece of advice I’ve never forgotten:
Don’t let your kids tattle. Only listen if there’s blood involved. Tattling breeds animosity.
I believe she was right, so I took it to heart.
When hearing a scuffle break out, I didn’t run to their aid. I paused to see if the problem rectified; half the time it did.
If the siblings yelled for me, I yelled back, “Work it out!”
However, I did have a biter who was dealt with swiftly and surely. Never should a child be allowed to hurt his siblings; it simply must be corrected immediately.
As the teenage years approach, drama often arises and children sometimes need to discuss negative behavior of an older sibling with a parent. Again, if it’s a matter of safety (such as a driving issue), or breaking family rules (sneaking out during grounding) it must be noted and addressed.
But the parent should be wise to pick battles and not breed contempt among the natives.
Tattling breeds animosity among siblings; don't buy into it. Click To Tweet
3. Feed humor
This is the best kept secret in parenting; a sense of humor is paramount.
One day our two middles (boy and girl) called the rest of the fam together “for a song we made up”. Our son wore a straw hat, plaid flannel shirt, and a painted mustache (or was that my eyeliner?); our daughter donned a play skirt and a cowboy hat.
They broke out into a slow dance while sonny began to sing while daughter echoed,
Oh you’re so tragic (tragic, tragic)
Think I fell in love
Oh, you’re so tragic (tragic, tragic)
Think I fell in love
Followed by a dip and a sway, and that’s all she wrote.
We about died.
Later, we asked our son if he knew what the word “tragic” meant, to which he replied, “no”.
If we foster a sense of humor, our kids will too. Laugh with them, share funny moments, notice hilarious
antics.You can't beat a sense of humor in parenting. Life is too serious to go without. Click To Tweet
4. Model peace
Our kids take their key from us. They feed off our attitudes, and if we’re in the habit of getting along with our kids as well as others outside the home, our kids will pick up on that.
As much as I believe in children resolving conflict with one another, name calling or bullying must be stopped.
It’s mom and dad’s job to protect the self-esteem of the younger children in the home. Permanent damage can be done to fragile egos when older children are allowed to belittle younger ones in the family. ~Raising Kids on Purpose by Gwen Weising
When I became aware of this type of behavior, I nipped it in the bud. Children are mean because they have a sin nature, but our job is to keep our eyes and ears attuned to the signs.
It’s one thing to fight over a toy, but pure meanness is not to be tolerated, and kids need to learn to apologize.
Ask the Lord for wisdom in these touchy subjects – He gives it liberally through His Word, prayer, and the counsel of godly friends.
5. Find family dinner
Shared meals build bonding for lots of reasons, and family dinners should be a priority. Discussion over events of the day, shared laughter, and general camaraderie develop as a result of the family table.
Turn off the tv, don’t allow electronics, and just enjoy each other’s company. Speak of the Lord often around your table, and ask good questions.
It’s a challenge to fight for dinner time as kids have soccer and ballet practice. Maybe it isn’t possible every night. We did everything in our power to connect with our kids over dinner and to this day, the dinner table is one of my very favorite times of family togetherness.
It’s just that important.
Remember the importance of family night and vacations (parents may also have to cut their own activities to ensure this). Foster loyalty by not allowing your kids to tattle, feed humor by laughing with them any chance you get, and fight for peace among the natives. Family dinners bring your whole tribe together, and these tested steps must fall underneath the umbrella of consistent prayer. We need the Lord in all aspects of raising our children.
What else would you add to this list? How are you raising your children to love their siblings? Answer in the comments below!
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