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?