Monday, May 16, 2011

Notes on "Raising Siblings Who Love Each Other"

Our Mother's Group on Friday enjoyed a discussion led by Natalie Larson, a mother of five boys and sister to ten siblings. I enjoyed learning from her experience and the others who came. I didn't take notes and a full weekend of yard work, photo shoots and other craziness means I'm only hitting the highlights, but here are a few ideas that Natalie shared with us:

* Natalie recommended the book Siblings without Rivalry.

* Don't compare your kids, don't have favorites and be careful not to label your kids – like “the quiet one,” “the naughty one,” "the stubborn one," etc. Not only does it encourage at times the very behaviors we want to discourage, but it also gives the other siblings a reason to doubt their own worth and abilities. How would YOU feel if your sister were the "pretty one" and your brother were the "smart one?"

* While we do need to respond to our kids’ unique traits, we shouldn’t allow them to feel as if they can only play that role.

* Have hard and fast “no hurting/hitting” and “no name-calling" rules. I've always been hard on the first one, but since the reminder, I've been cracking down on the second by making the child who calls a name say three nice things about the person they insulted. It seems to be working.

* When there are problems between siblings, always comfort the one that’s hurt first rather than disciplining the offender first.

* Try to head off the “he got more than me” battles by responding in terms of the individual needs of a child rather than the comparison. So if a child says, for instance, “He got three big pancakes while I only got three small ones!” you say, “Oh, are you hungry for more? How many more would you like?”

* Our kids need to learn that life is not always fair and how to handle disappointment. It's not easy, but we should try to teach our kids to be happy for the sibling that gets invited to a birthday party or has a unique success rather than feel as if they are diminished because of it.

* Our older kids can be taught that while we will try to be fair and reasonable, we are going to make mistakes. If kids can understand that we are also doing our best, they can accept what they see as inequities a bit better.

* Build the sibling bond by providing positive experiences for kids to be involved together. Natalie says that a lot of the closeness she feels with her sisters is because they shared a room late at night. When they get together now, it’s like a continuation of the many late-night chats they enjoyed because they shared a room. Natalie says the family trips they took together and the friendships they formed from constant play together also bonded her with her siblings.

* Family scripture study is an important key to setting a peaceful tone in the home.

What are some ideas I've missed? Those of you with close sibling relationships, how did those develop? What are ways you've found to help your children learn to get along?


Becky said...

These are all great ideas, and they really work. I can't tell you how many times I used Mosiah 4:14-15 to stop contention. It seemed to make a difference (although often quickly forgotten!) when I said that I needed their help so that "I" could keep the commandment to have peace and harmony in our home. Providing opportunities for them to serve each other really helps them learn to love each other.

We also emphasized a lot that we were the parents and they were the kids. For example, if one of the children "disciplined" another and then wondered why I didn't punish the offender, I'd say, "They only need one punishment; you already gave it. Next time come to me first and let me be the mom." It's hard to describe, and I can't give a concrete example because we haven't had the problem for years, but I know this concept helped them pull together as siblings.

One of the neatest "fruits of our labors" that we've seen is how our three grown and married sons (who live 2,000 miles away from us but within 50 miles of each other) get together for a monthly "sibling" dinner. The last one was after helping one of them move to a new apartment. They're great friends, and their wives are great friends too!

Courtney said...

Great! I am so glad you posted this. Now I need to print it out and study it.

Laura@livingabigstory said...

Thanks for this -- I definitely need it with the day I had today! Now what about "How to raise a mommy who doesn't fall apart when the siblings don't love each other" post?

Joy For Your Journey said...

So for my oldest two--they didn't get along until they both moved out of the house and into different states. Now they are good friends. I am not sure anything would have worked with them.

My younger three all loved each other from the beginning and still do. I agree with the not comparing and also providing experiences for them to work together on projects and assignments. They learn to work together and if the assignment is hard--they become bound together through shared misery. :-)

Although my daughter Kathryn is home now for a couple weeks and after we picked her up from the airport she and MIchelle started arguing in the back seat (mostly in fun) After a minute or two, MIchelle said, "I have missed you!!"

Holli said...

Last summer we started having the child that called another child by a mean name say 3 nice things about that child. It has worked really well!

Having just returned home from my family reunion where me and my 7 siblings are lucky enough to have been very close growing up and now, this is a great post and something I'm always working to provide with my children, hoping they will have a relationship like I have with my siblings. I think having opportunities to help each other, be responsible for each other, and creating special times together help with sibling love!

I like the ideas you posted, thanks!


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