Ten Tips for fostering HEALTHY sibling relationships
1. Siblings are a GIFT. Have siblings participate in gift buying for their siblings. This could look like having sibling(s) help you pick out something for other child/ren, all the way to using their money to pitch in for a gift. Teaching our children to be generous, thoughtful, and kind to their siblings builds strong relationships.
2. Personal Space. Allow each sibling to have their own “space and stuff” that they don’t always have to share. If everything is “fair game” this will breed resentment. (My older boys share a room. So innately they have to share a lot. We try to respect that sometimes they don’t want to do the same thing, share their favorite toys, and or play together. We have to create the space for this to happen and use the words “Please let ______________ have some alone time for a while in the kitchen so he can finish his project”. Not only does this eliminate resentment, but helps our children to practice respecting boundaries and breaking entitlement.
3. Fight Nice. Kids are going to disagree. However, you must set some ground rules for “fighting fair”. For example, in our family name calling is NEVER allowed or tolerated and physical altercations are not permitted (to name a few). Do your kids know what they are allowed to say/do when they are angry at their sibling?
4. Blame Game. Do not allow blaming unless there is 100% proof! We encourage our kids to say things like “I think he ate my cookie because he was sitting at my spot and the cookie was gone” VS “he took my cookie!”.
5. Celebrate! Practice being happy for each other and verbally pointing out strengths. This often needs to be modeled and practiced…and then it will become a habit! For example, ask your children something that they think their sibling is really good at.
6. “NO COMPARING RULE”. This is a big one in our family (especially because we have twins- but it spans across all siblings groups). We reiterate often that God makes us all different, gives us different gifts, makes us look different, etc. We also have to distinguish between celebrating one’s accomplishments vs. boasting.. Boasting is a cousin to comparing and creates the same sense of shame/low self-worth.
7. Sorry Equation. Teach your children how to say sorry in a way that is heart-felt and healthy. Sorry Equation = I am sorry for ___________________. The other sibling: I forgive you.
8. Mirror Mirror. Watch how you talk to or about other adults. Your kids are watching you! If you speak unkindly to/about others, they will probably mirror that with their siblings.
9. Privacy Please. When/if one child is being disciplined, do not allow the other child to get in the middle. Discipline and punishments should be private out of respect for the child who made the mistake. Shaming does not build relationships.
10. Positive Language. Your sibling team needs a name. Whether you refer to each other as “Team Smith”, or “Buddies”, YOU as the parent can create the atmosphere of comradery by using language that promotes togetherness.