Believe it or not, siblings can love and cherish one another. It may not seem like it when you require the jaws of life just to pry open the death grip that they have on one another’s hair, but siblings can share a deep and enduring love. Of course, sometimes even love needs a little push here and there, and there are many things parents should do to give their kids the best chance at a positive relationship. Here are some suggestions:
Watch your own words
Parents often create self-fulfilling prophecies for themselves when they make comments like, “All you two do is fight all the time. I’m sick of it!” or “Can’t you two ever get along?” When kids hear such phrases often enough it sets the expectation that conflict is their natural disposition.
Rather than using negative statements, say something like, “I like it much better when the two of you get along” or “This type of fighting doesn’t help you two get back to having fun together.” Set the expectation that they will have a positive relationship, and you’ll give them a substantial boost in this direction.
You should also frequently use statements that express your expectation that they will have a good relationship and look out for one another:
- You two are so good for each other, even if you don’t always realize it.
- You’ll always be brother and sister.
- You two can rely on each other.
- The two of you are family, and family supports one another.
Also give plenty of praise for how they relate to one another:
- You two are some team!
- I’m so proud of how you kids are playing so nicely together.
- You two are so clever when working together!
- I love it when you’re kind to your sister like that.
Be sure to share the good times together
When it comes to the health of any relationship, how we react to the good things others experience is often more important than how we react to the bad. Imagine how you would feel if you worked hard to earn a promotion at work, only to come home and have your spouse react with “eh, no big deal,” when you tried to tell him your exciting news. You’d likely feel upset and angry. The same dynamic is true of siblings. So whenever one child is proud of something or has something good happen to them, talk privately with the other kids about why it’s so important that we acknowledge their accomplishment and congratulate them. Here are some ideas for what you might say:
“It may be old news for you, but it’s a new accomplishment for her. Try to remember how proud you were when you first learned to ride a bike, and how much it would have hurt you if I didn’t think that was special. Your sister looks up to you and wants you to be proud of her. She cares about what you think, so don’t disappoint her. You’d want your sister to do the same thing if you were excited about something.”
Then make sure that you congratulate the kids when they praise and support each other. Simply looking at the supportive child and giving a smile, wink, or thumbs up will get the point across. Or you can tell the child that you liked how supportive they were when you’re alone again later. If you can get the kids into the habit of celebrating each other’s accomplishments, this alone can improve their relationship to each other.
Create sibling pledges
Sit the kids down together and ask them what, in their own minds, would make for the perfect sibling. If they could pick from any person in the world, what traits and qualities would make for the perfect brother or sister? Write these things down on a piece of paper while discussing each one.
Next, organize these ideas into a set of coherent concepts (they would play with me, they would always be nice, etc.) and ask each child what they can do personally to emulate this perfect brother or sister. This usually works best when you talk to each child individually away from the others. Record their responses on a piece of paper.
Finally, turn these general ideas into a sibling pledge that you can print out and hang on the wall somewhere. Create one page for the general pledge, and one page on how each child vows to try and uphold that pledge. Go over it with the kids during a family meeting while explaining that if each child does their part to stick to this pledge, they really can become each other’s perfect sibling. When everyone is more considerate, everyone benefits.
In the months and years to come you’ll be able to use this pledge as a guiding principle whenever the kids are fighting. Reminding them of the vows they themselves agreed to can make them more cooperative when you’re trying to promote pro-social behavior.
Looking for more ideas? We’ve saved our most valuable tips, activities, and advice for our eBook, Super Siblings. Get your copy today for just $7.99, and be well on your way towards a more peaceful household. Plus, all proceeds from your purchase go to help kids in need. Its a win-win!