HA! In my house?! <– that was seriously my first thought.
If your kids are anything like mine (or how I remember my brother and I being), there is little appreciation going around in that department… there is, however, an abundance of punches and snarky comments being thrown around though (;
But, the idea really is something we should promote as parents. It’s an important foundation for them to have later on in life. My mom used to always tell us, “You need to love each other because one day you will be all each other have.” And, that’s a phrase I will never forget her saying — because it’s true.
Friends last a while, but family lasts forever
(or so it should)
How can we expect our children to live that motto if we don’t teach it to them when they are young? And by teaching it to them, I don’t mean just saying it over-and-over again.
My mother told us that phrase many times throughout my childhood, and yet, though I’ll never forget it, sadly it’s not one that my brother and I grew up building upon.
Now, that I am an adult and have children of my own, I look at our relationship and wish for so much more. We are not as close as I’d like, and it’s not exactly the relationship I want my children to have.
No matter how much I love my brother, I don’t think I am the first he’d call with a problem. I’m not the one he finds comfort in during hard times. Or the person he feels like he could trust his secrets with.
As much as I’d love to say I am, I’m not.
And, that’s sad — and not what I want for my kids.
So, it got me thinking: How can I change this for them?
I could tell them my mother’s motto, but that didn’t help us out much…
or I could teach it to them.
But, how do you teach someone to love another person?
Luckily, they are still young enough where you don’t have to teach them to love each other, they already do. But you do need to help them realize it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying do this and your house will become a peaceful haven full of love and laughter. I wish.
They are still kids and they are still siblings; they’re going to argue.
But maybe we can help them love and value each other, not just now, but throughout their lives.
How can we do this?
Model Kindness to Them
It’s no news that children mimic what they see. If they see condemnation and anger they will learn to judge and become angry with each other. However, if they see love, kindness, and forgiveness they will learn to have compassion for each other.
Offer Individual Time
If they are constantly feeling jealous of each other, it will be hard for them to overcome those emotions. Then, those feelings grow into resentment and it’s hard to love someone you resent. So, try your best to take out time to spend alone with each child (you can read my post for how “dating” my children changed our relationships — click here). When they feel like they are not in competition with one another, then they will be able to see each other in a different light.
It’s our job as parents to teach our children how to act. If we do not teach them to respect their siblings, they wont. Teaching this may be as simple as setting boundaries for respecting each other’s property, thoughts, and ideas. We should help them realize that their brother or sister is a person, like everyone else, who is worthy of their respect.
Allow Them to Figure it Out
This is a phrase I say OFTEN in my household (and no, I’m not talking about the awesome 90’s game show — oh nostalgia). Many times, it is our first reaction to rush in and stop their arguing — often, by adding more arguing to the situation. But sometimes, we need to sit back and see how they can figure it out together. A lot of times, when I have yelling kids rushing my way, I immediately point them back in the direction they came from and just say, “figure it out.” Sometimes, it takes more coaxing, but I reassure them that they don’t need me to get involved to find a solution (and if I do, I promise it wont be one they’ll like). This concept allows them to try to reason with each other and fix their problem together.
Talk About Your Family
Oddly, this is not something we often do as families. We don’t have that straight-forward conversation with our children letting them know what being a family means: we love and protect each other, siblings included! Yet, we expect them to figure this out on their own. Instead, we should open up the conversation, telling them what being a family means to us. You should even make them tell at least one thing they love about each of their family members (;
Teach Them to be Thankful
How can you teach them to be thankful, especially for their siblings? Go back to #1, model it. If they have role models who show how thankful they are for their blessings — especially their family — then it will help them realize that they should be thankful too! Remind them how blessed they are in their lives. Remind them that even their sibling is a blessing!
Leave Them Alone
Well, this one pretty much contradicts everything I just wrote before, but it’s something we need to do every now and then. If we are constantly pushing them to love each other or realize the other’s value, it’s not a genuine lesson that they learned on their own. Allow them to learn this by themselves. They will create their own situations where these lessons are learned without you there facilitating it, don’t fight that. Or hover above them waiting for the perfect moment to implement what I talked about above, because the older they get the more they’ll realize what you are doing and it’ll decrease the value to them (ugh, teenagers).
So relax, if you try your best every now and again (because, let’s be honest, parenting is hard and no one can be perfect ALL the time), they’ll pick it up. It may take until they are adults, but one day you will see them together and you will see all those years of work. You will finally see them as not only siblings, but friends.