How we teach our children to be friends with their siblings.

by | Oct 15, 2017 | Education, Family life

There is a popular belief (at least in the German-speaking world) that it’s normal that siblings quarrel. That siblings have rivalries. And even that siblings can be mean to each other.

siblings

Well, in my family of origin this was certainly true. We not only quarreled, having rivalries or being mean to each other, but, during certain phases, we even hated each other.
Today, I have a very good relationship with all of my siblings…However, we went through the process of talking with each other about past times, asking for forgiveness and building up a relationship of trust when we were already adults.

But I know several families where siblings are not at all a unity, are not friends, don’t know each other and sometimes can’t stand each other.
I observed and heard about many situations where siblings are suffering because of each other.
Lately, a mom shared an article on facebook, written by a professional in pedagogy. Saying that it is good and even important to let children fight, without interfering as adults.

Someone once asked:

If children are really able to resolve their conflicts by themselves, why are the street gangs and all these groups of peers not a more peaceful and  fertile place, where everyone can feel free to be who they are?

The answer is simple: Children need to learn to fight right. They need to learn to deal with the negative feelings related to siblings/peers. They need to learn how to be themselves, without smashing others because of their behaviour.

With that belief we raise our children – and it works.

People who come to visit us have been surprised how peaceful they are and how good they treat each other. How thoughtfully they resolve conflicts. How well they manage frustration relating to each other, and how they care for each other.

I don’t believe that our children are different from other kids. However, I believe that it makes a huge difference what we as parents see as «normal».

We as parents have a huge impact on our family culture. We are the ones who decide what’s acceptable behaviour and what’s a no-go.

What we accept has a lot to do with our belief of how it is supposed to be.

We have established our proper norm as a family. It helps us a lot in dealing with daily situations.

Here are some of the guidelines we established for our own family:

1. We are NEVER mean to each other. There is quarreling and then there is simply being mean. And this is never OK. We try to make them understand that siblings are here for life. Friends come and go. We explain to them that they can only have these fun times with their cousins because we as Mom and Dad have a good relationship with our siblings today, being adults.

siblings

1. We are NEVER mean to each other. There is quarreling and then there is simply being mean. And this is never OK. We try to make them understand that siblings are here for life. Friends come and go. We explain to them that they can only have these fun times with their cousins because we as Mom and Dad have a good relationship with our siblings today, being adults.

2. We teach the older siblings how they can respond to the mistakes of their younger siblings:
Right now I am with our children at a campground in France. Today my kids were playing and my oldest stood on a camping chair. It was an old one, and as soon as he stood on it, the fabric tore and the chair was broken. Now… our oldest is able to do many things the younger ones can’t or don’t know… and he tends to be hard on them in those situations.

So, I told him: Oh, it’s broken! And you know what? I am not hard on you because I know you didn’t realize that this can tear.  I knew it because I have more life experience. That same way I want you to be patient with your younger siblings if something similar happens to them. Many times, they don’t know about it yet or they can’t do it any better yet. Do also you promise not to be hard on them? Well, he did, and I know he will apply that principle in his life.

3. We help them resolve conflicts and emotional challenges that are too big for them. One of our boys can get really frustrated when things don’t go his way or when he doesn’t understand the rules of the game. In these situations he tends to shout at his siblings, crying and being really frustrated. We intervene in those moments, helping him understand, helping him deal with the situation the right way comforting him. He u..sually calms down instantly, and off he goes, continuing to play.

4. When we are in certain situations, we don’t accept quarreling at all.
One example is when we are on the road. When I am driving, fights are not allowed. I drive to the side of the road, tell them I can’t concentrate and that they can tell me when their finished. But we will never seat our kids separately in the car in order that they can’t fight. As a result of teaching them this kind of self-responsibility, we never have fights in the car… or only for a few seconds and then they get along very well again.

There are other ways we apply in order to teach our children how to get along, how to have a great time together.

However, all our ways have the same purpose:

We want the childhood of our kids to be a time they learn how to have a great relationship with each other. We want to give them the gift of having siblings that know and love each other. That way, they will have two great realities in their life when their grow older. Number one: The knowledge of how to fight right, how to have long term relationships with anyone they wish to, not only their siblings; Number two: they will have siblings for life, siblings who care for each other and love each other.

 

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