Sibling love comes naturally from our first born, but our second child sometimes seems like he could care less. Our children are seventeen months apart and sometimes it has advantages and sometimes it does not. The biggest advantage to having children close in age is that they play together. They always have a playmate and for most of the time, they get along pretty well. Then, there are the other times I want to lock myself in a closet and wait until someone comes to help! Teaching siblings to love each other isn’t something we can fix overnight, but we can help guide their relationship in a loving way. Here are the five ways we are teaching our children to love each other right now.
Give siblings opportunities to help each other in practical ways. Older siblings can help younger kids find their socks, get a cup of water, or even tie their shoes. Younger siblings can deliver things, or even help an older brother or sister pick up toys from under the bed. It is important to invite younger kids to do things for older children and not ask the older sibling to do more than their share. These helping moments teach consideration for the other person.
There are often times when my kids are playing really loud, boisterous games together. My first reaction may be to ask them to play quietly in another room, but those moments are often big sibling bonding times. If they aren’t bothering anyone and are safe, let them go and have all the sibling bonding to be had.
Always be an advocate for kind behavior. Don’t allow children to harm each other in words or actions. Be an example of kind behavior. Sometimes kids can get wrapped up in their own worlds and need to be taught empathy. If one somehow hurts the other, ask the inflictor to hold an ice pack to the hurt child. This teaches them to take the time to help the other feel better. If they are older, ask them how that person feels and if they would like to be treated the same way. Then you could come up with a plan and ask “how can you make them feel better?”
Do not deny your child’s feelings, but help them learn to express emotions in an appropriate way. If you see your child acting angrily, encourage him/her to identify the emotion by saying, “I feel (Sad) when (you took my toy). So, can you please (ask before you take it)?” This is known as an “I message” and helps a child express their needs, expectations, feelings or concerns to the other person in a respectful way that does not attack or shame them. Helping your children figure out the causes of their actions will also help them learn how to deal with problems in the future.
Rewarding kind and considerate behavior encourage an ongoing positive relationship. Tell them what you love about their friendship. You can say something like, “I love seeing you have a good time playing that board game together.” Or you can compliment them by saying, “I’m really proud of how both of you compromised to play that together.” Acknowledge what parts in their relationship work and what does not.
Cultivating sibling relationships is a lifelong lesson a child can carry with them throughout their life. Lessons learned from home adapt to relationships in school, sports, and eventually in the workplace. You can help build positive sibling relationships by creating opportunities for them to help each other, allowing them to play crazy games together, not allowing bad behavior between them, teaching conflict resolution, and complimenting their friendship. In time they will learn how relationships work and how to make they grow.
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