It is pure bliss when family members are living in harmony with one another, when relationships are interwoven & interdependent and when siblings are best friends. Is this possible or a far-stretched dream? Is it really achievable for siblings to be BFFs? I Peter 3:8 encourages brothers to live in unity. How is this accomplished? It begins with encouragement from us as parents.
– Consider the standard in your home. Are you allowing your children to speak unkind and disrespectful to each other? If so, determine the desired standard, communicate the standard and then hold your children to the standard. That means applying consequences (every time) when the standard is broken. In our home, that begins with a sit time and escalates to a loss of privileges including the loss of technology or even play-dates if relationships are not where they need to be in the home.
– Encourage your children to do small acts of kindness for their siblings. This can mean writing notes, bringing a lollipop home form the bank, offering the ‘better piece’ when sharing, inviting a sibling to ‘sleep-over’ in their room, letting a sibling go first, etc. Being “others centered” may be more difficult for some temperaments, so it may require prompting and suggesting until the ideas originate on their own. I often challenge each of my children to do one act of kindness for each other and then share privately with me at the end of the day. It is so sweet to hear some of the things they come up with on their own. And for those that need the extra nudging, they come to me with excitement and joyous pride of the kind, yet difficult, deed they did for their sibling.
– Celebrate each other. Encourage (and require) your children to give/make a gift or card for birthdays or other important events like concerts, plays or sports games. It was so sweet when my four year old wrapped and gave her younger sister her prized ‘blanky’ on her birthday without anyone knowing! Precious.
– Share freely and openly the things they appreciate about each other. This can be done periodically at the dinner table or during a family devotion. We sometimes make a game at the dinner table and say ‘turn to your left, or right and share something you appreciate about the person beside you.” The more they are encouraged to share openly, the more this becomes natural.
– Understand temperaments: Help siblings understand temperaments which will describe the strengths and weakness of themselves and their siblings. This has been a very helpful tool in knitting the hearts of my girls who seem to be wired completely different. They are able to offer grace and understanding in each others weaknesses instead of being irritated or competitive.
– Love Languages: Help your children understand what speaks love to each other: Encouraging words, acts of service, quality time, gifts, physical touch. Do your children know the love languages of their siblings?
– Confess offenses: Encourage repentance, forgiveness and restoration with offenses between siblings. It is impossible to share a close relationship with offense (sin) in the way.
– Offer Boundaries when necessary: If you have children who are not getting along, it could be they need boundaries in how much time they spend together. Help your children succeed. It may mean you need to shorten the time of interaction to ensure the time doesn’t end in conflict.
– Family Identity: Encourage your family to be best friends. Talk about it… and live it. It is necessary to protect family time to nurture an environment in which family/sibling relationships can thrive away from distractions.
– Treat all your children the same: We all know what happened in the Joseph story in the Bible when he was singled out as the ‘favorite’ son in the Bible. It created hatred, competitiveness and isolation between Joseph and his siblings. We can sow those same seeds if we give the impression we favor one child over another. Treat them all the same…every one of your children should feel like they are ‘the favorite’.
– Pray for each other. Encourage daily praying for each other. Prayer knits hearts together and keeps hearts pure. Sometimes it is helpful to pray with your child for their heart toward a sibling.