As a parent, you get somewhat used to hearing some of the age-old family stereotypes when it comes to siblings — brothers will fight, sisters will bicker, and so on and so on. But, what if that was the exception and not the everyday norm? As parents we can help encourage good sibling relationships by teaching them how to love one another, root for one another, and treat one another as genuine friends. This not only help your home to be more peaceful but will lay the foundation for sweet sister and brother relationships as adults.
1. Give them enough down time together.
If everyone is over-scheduled, it’s hard to foster deep relationships. Down time (aka, “bored time!”) is so important especially when children are young and helps to foster creativity — my girls played for hours on end with each other when they were younger, with little direction from us. So many memories were made, from games they played to silly songs they sang, but it also helps them learn conflict resolution, sharing and patience. (Sharing a room helps them develop these things even more!)
2. Practice respect for one another.
From traditional manners to basic respectful practices — this is a big one that will not only help diffuse lots of bickering at home, but also set expectations on how to treat others outside of your home. If siblings share a room or bathroom, then make sure they know to respect that shared space and keep it clean. Have boys hold the door for their sister, say “please” and “thank you” to each other, and speak kindly to and about them. Children should never speak negatively about their siblings to friends either. Start early building that family trust and bonding.
3. Practice forgiveness and service to one another.
Forgiveness and serving others are some of the most important virtues we can teach our children — so it’s a perfect opportunity to start at home! If a brother wrongs a sister, have that child clean up the sister’s room or make their bed for a week. If a sibling is sick, encourage the others to write get well cards or fold their laundry for them. And sometimes it’s hard for little ones to say they’re sorry; try having them write a note if this is the case. Remember, we have to model how to apologize and forgive to our children.
4. Have them write birthday cards and pick out gifts for one another.
This is a little extra work on the parents, but it’s so good for siblings to practice being thoughtful! And they love to pick things out for each other, which makes it that much more meaningful. Homemade gifts are great, too (and often the best)! We still have a spray painted trophy made out of a paper cup and McDonald’s toy that one of my daughters made for another to say she was the best runner in a family race. Another sister made a box of notecards filled with Bible verses as an encouragement. Simple and thoughtful goes a long way!
5. Make attending sports games a family affair.
It’s definitely easier to divide and conquer with weekend sports but when possible bring siblings along to their sister or brother’s game. This encourages sibling support for one another — and there’s nothing like being cheered on by a brother or sister on the sidelines! You want to teach them to be each other’s biggest fans and supporters both on and off the field (or court, or track). This is a family habit that’s good for family bonding.
6. Go on vacation together without other families.
Vacationing with close friends is such a joy — but don’t count out the importance of going as a family unit! This allows siblings to bond away from the stresses and pressure of home (especially if you have older children in school). Have them share a bedroom, entertain themselves at the pool, enjoy the fun activities together. So many memories are to be made on family vacations that they’ll talk about their whole lives!
7. When they’re old enough, let them be independent together.
Walking to Starbucks or to the drug store, going to the park, going for a bike ride around the neighborhood — nothing elaborate or fancy, but still fun! This is such a great way to continue building on the foundation of looking out for one another, and showing that you trust them together. You can sign them up to volunteer together. Or if you have a teenager who has their driver’s license, let them go on little drives together, like to school in the morning or even to Sonic. Not only do they get one-on-one time, but there are so many opportunities for great conversation!
8. Encourage having fun together.
A round of golf, a paint by number set, or even just throwing the football in the front yard, there are just so many ways you can encourage sibling fun, and lots of them don’t cost a thing. You may just need to give a few prompts them push them out the door. And I know that lots of brothers’ idea of fun is lots of rough-housing and wrestling! Just make sure there’s some level of turn-taking and cooperation involved. One simple rule you can put in place is no play fighting after someone says “stop.”
9. Make sure they have alone time with friends, but don’t completely separate from their siblings.
This is especially important with teens. Younger siblings don’t have to always play the role of being annoying little sister or brother. They should know their sibling’s friends and older siblings in turn should treat each other respectfully in front of friends. If my teenage daughter has friends over I let the younger ones hang out for 30 minutes or so before going to bed.
10. Pray for their sibling relationships.
Pray for those sweet sibling relationships! You will be discouraged some days, but pray for what your heart desires — pray for your children to be devoted to one another in love for the rest of their lives. Like I said above, it’s one of the biggest gifts we can give to them!
Arguing will still happen. The fights will, too. But with parental guidance and nurturing you can definitely good siblings relationships so those things are the exception not the norm. What are your tips for encouraging good sibling relationships?