Nurturing sibling relationships is an aspect of parenting I want to thrive in! Mothering and parenthood are legit hard. It’s a high and holy calling on us. And I hope something shared here can bring more peace to your home, where there might be chaos.
I do not get it right every time, and I do not know all the things. We struggle and have hard days and weeks, just like everyone. However, because we put an emphasis on our children getting along with each other – and have from the very beginning – they are best friends. Here are the things we purposely implemented in our family culture to nurture the relationships among our children.
Valuing Sibling Relationships
First and most importantly, we view siblings as a gift in our family. My husband and I don’t take the value of this special bond for granted among our 3 kids. I grew up as an only child. As a kid, I longed for that best friend who would be with me through thick and thin no matter what. I wanted so badly a connection like reading each other’s thoughts without saying a word.
Childhood friendships can graze the surface of this, but those relationships tend to be fluid and temporary. They depend on where you live, what school you go to, etc. And those things often change. But siblings are with you forever. They’re stuck with you, ha! That is the biggest motivator for how we’ve taught our kids to view each other. Siblings are a gift.
Teaching Conflict Resolution
Teaching conflict resolution is essential to nurturing sibling relationships. I have shamelessly been a helicopter parent regarding conflict resolution with our children. This meant having them repeat what I say when resolving a conflict (over and over again). I intentionally taught them the words and tone to use when speaking to each other.
I took the time to explain why their sister or brother was feeling a certain way. If one child did something hurtful, I would tell them to look at their sibling and say, “Look at their face. They are sad. It made them sad when you did XYZ. You need to say sorry and make it right.” I start this around age two. This helps develop awareness and empathy for others.
Only recently have I started letting my 5 and 7-year-olds work out their conflicts independently. And it’s been a joy to hear them both state their opinions on a situation and come to their compromises. It makes all that hard work I did when they were younger worth it.
Additionally, I take the time to explain to my older kids that those younger than them are still learning. We have to be patient and teach them. This is especially poignant, as I call my now 2-year-old the toddleriest toddler I have ever had. He is in his learning stage, and my older two often have to give him grace when they don’t feel like it. That’s a good life lesson.
Nurturing the Heart
To the best of our ability, we all parent the hearts of our children and not just their behavior. If one child is going through a phase where they’re repeatedly getting frustrated and yelling at someone else, we try to figure out the reason why they acting that way.
We recently dealt with this. The frustrated child yelled because they felt like their sibling wasn’t listening. After discussing appropriate ways to express frustration (yelling at people is not one of them), we talked to the other sibling about the importance of active listening and how it hurts people’s feelings when they don’t feel heard.
It takes a lot more work on the front end. It would be much easier for me to separate the two kids and have a blanket “no yelling” statement, then move on. But if we only responded to the behavior, we would have missed a teaching moment. We try to keep the goal of nurturing sibling relationships in mind during conflict resolution.
Lastly, we instill team spirit into our family culture. I credit my husband with this one. He loves being part of a team. Therefore, we don’t allow our kids to compete against each other. They can use teamwork to complete tasks, whether chores or just playing a game. But they can’t try to beat each other.
Also, when calling my kids, I say, “team Sewell, it’s time to go (or whatever).” This gives them a little reminder that we are all on the same team. Always. We don’t pit them against each other – ever. Even when playing games.
The big takeaway in nurturing sibling relationships is that this is a priority in our family. We put a lot of our parenting energy into this. We tell our kids they are “forever best friends,” and we mean that wholeheartedly.
I would love to hear how you nurture sibling relationships with your kids. Share what has worked in your family, so we can learn from each other.