I have always told my children they should strive to be good friends. The people we will know the longest in our lives are usually our brothers and sisters. Because of this fact, I’ve always encouraged my kids to have strong sibling friendships.
As a homeschooling family, socialization is often questioned. As our culture has conditioned us to believe children should spend the bulk of their day with same-aged peers, it seems unfathomable that siblings should be friends.
I want my children to be close friends and not just siblings. Developing a good relationship is a choice, and it takes work. There are intentional steps I’ve taken to encourage my kids to be friends.
Steps to encourage sibling friendships:
Prayer – My best weapon is prayer.
A friend loves at all times; and a brother is born to adversity. Proverbs 17:17
When my two youngest boys were born two years and one day apart, it felt like the beginning of a competition. I was not wrong. The two regularly compete with each other, but they are also best friends. My consistent prayer is for them to be good friends, as well as brothers.
Practice good sportsmanship – Kids are going to compete, so teach them to play well.
When my kids were young, I would set up an obstacle course using various yard toys. They each took a turn running the course against a timer. The job of the siblings waiting for a turn was to cheer them on. By modeling encouragement myself, the kids whooped and applauded the racer to beat their last time. This behavior was encouraged when games became competitive beyond a timer, to teach how to be gracious winners and losers.
Communicate – Teach them to use their words.
When a kid wants something their sibling has, they often try to take it. Especially if it’s a younger child. They should be expected to use their words. From a young age, kids should learn to ask, “may I have a turn when you’re done?” For the average child, it will take some repetitive practice but the long-term effort will develop self-control and discourage sibling spats.
Share – Taking turns is a crucial social skill.
There is always that one toy everyone wants, but someone else has. When one child correctly communicates their desire for a turn, the other should be encouraged to respond, “yes, in just a minute,” and pass the toy off within a reasonable time. Some exceptions apply to brand new birthday toys. As my kids learned sharing did not mean losing a toy forever, they became more gracious with even special new ones.
Promote gift giving – When birthdays and Christmas come around, give kids a budgeted amount to select a gift to give to their sibling.
When my kids were young, they each were given $10 to spend on a sibling gift. They often combined their resources to get something special they knew the person would like and have even added their own money if they were over budget. My kids have enjoyed gift giving so much, they started a Christmas tradition of exchanging sibling presents as the first gifts to be open.
Family game night – Board games are a great way to bring siblings together.
We have tried to maintain a regular game night since our kids were old enough to play. Games go more quickly during the preschool and early elementary years and develop turn-taking and sportsmanship skills. By adolescence, strategy games are more about crushing the parents. On many occasions, a heated game of Risk has been dominated by the teamwork of my boys’ Bro-Nation alliance.
It seems increasingly common in our culture for people to lack close ties with their extended family. Relationships can get messy at times and without positive family bonds, there is no motivation to maintain any association. Encouraging sibling friendships will help children develop relational skills and positive family connections that can last their lifetimes.