Improving 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 don’t get it right every time, and I don’t 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 – I can safely say that they are best friends. Here are the things we purposely implemented in our family culture to nurture and improve 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 three 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, your school, etc. And those things often change.
But siblings are with you forever. They’re stuck with you, ha! That’s the biggest motivator for why we’ve taught our kids to view each other. Siblings are a gift.
Teaching & Improving Conflict Resolution
Teaching conflict resolution is essential to improving sibling relationships. I have shamelessly been a helicopter parent regarding conflict resolution with our children.
In the toddler years, I had them repeat what I said when resolving a fight or disagreement (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 started this around age two, and I believe it helped them develop awareness and empathy for others.
Recently I have started letting my five 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. Do they get it right every time? No. But they are on their way!
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.
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Parenting & Encouraging 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 why they are 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 to be this involved in all their sibling squabbles. 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 always improving sibling relationships at the forefront.
Creating a Positive Family Culture
Lastly, we instill team spirit into our family culture. I credit my husband with this one. He loves being part of a team.
For example, we don’t allow our kids to compete against each other in skill-based play. 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 reminds them 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 fostering and improving sibling relationships is that this is a focus 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.