One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is another brother or sister. But as parents, our responsibility isn’t just to provide those siblings and just walk away saying, “Hope it all works out!” We need to provide the environment and guidance that children need to have healthy, life-giving relationships with their brothers and sisters. This is a challenge–no doubt about it! But the effort that parents put into this formation is worth it in the long run.
It is within our family that we are prepared for life. Parents give boundaries and a framework with which children see the world, but their siblings “color in the picture” because it is within these relationships that children practice what their parents taught them. One of the hardest things for parents to do is allow children the freedom to practice virtue. How do we do that?
- Keep your perspective. These children will have each other forever. Work on moving them in the right direction, but realize that they have a lifetime to figure out how to get along. A fight today doesn’t mean they will hate each other forever.
- Encourage them to forgive and ask forgiveness. Reconciliation doesn’t mean you say, “It’s ok.” Reconciliation is saying, “I forgive you.” Everyone makes mistakes and that’s ok. Your home is a place where virtue is practiced by people trying, failing, and getting back up again. You and your children do not have to be perfect every time, but you do have to keep trying.
- Give freedom within limits. You have to give freedom when you are forming virtue in your children. You can’t force them to be kind or to be grateful. If they aren’t choosing to share, for example, then they aren’t really being generous. What parents should do is provide the environment and the example of how to practice virtue. This means sometimes they won’t respond in the right way. You have to be ready for that.
- Tattle-telling is not tolerated. Siblings are to speak to each other first. If the other will not listen, then an adult may be consulted. Parents should intervene as a last resort (see next point).
- Be careful about intervening. It is best to give them time to work things out. If they can’t work it out, make your solution disagreeable to both of them. They will tend to want to work things out on their own after that.
- Hang out with your kids. When you play with a few kids, you are modeling how to have fun together. Especially when you chose to spend time with two siblings who don’t get along. Fun “greases the gears” in their everyday relationships.
Remember you won’t always be around. You must be intentional about building strong, healthy relationships among your children. They aren’t just siblings for their childhood–they will have each other the rest of their lives. And this is the greatest gift you can give them.
References: MP95 Sibling Challenges; MP52 Your Kids CAN be Best Friends; MP60 Forgiveness