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Suzy Martyn is the author of Enjoy the Ride: Tools, Tips, and Inspiration for the Most Common Parenting Challenges and has 25 years experience working with children. Read more »
When my oldest daughter was seven and her little sister was five, I told them that they could go swimming after finishing a page of homework. After a while, my five-year-old raised two pages of work up in the air and proudly proclaimed, "We can go swimming now! Let's go!" Confused, I asked her what she meant because her older sister was still working on her homework. She replied, "Oh, mommy, we can go swimming now because I did two pages of homework." Wondering if she had misunderstood the guidelines, I pointed in the direction of her sister who was still busily working at her desk. With a proud smile on her face and wide-eyed excitement, my sweet little five-year-old exclaimed, "No, mommy, we can go now because I did two pages: one for me and one for my sister!"
While applauding her for her thoughtfulness yet setting the correct boundary, I told her, "Oh, honey, that is very sweet of you to want to help your sister, but she really needs to finish her own work. Thank you for the thought, but your extra page doesn't count for your sister." With an accepting nod of the head she replied, "OK, mommy, but the love counts, right?"
It warms a parent's heart to see love between siblings. When a parent witnesses one sibling choosing to do something loving towards another on his own accord, it creates a deep sense of satisfaction. More than anything else, parents want to see their children get along harmoniously, support each other and be "bestest" friends. Unfortunately, this love between siblings does not always come naturally or easily. Siblings are often squabbling, competing or having less than positive feelings about each other. Left to their own devices, they will bicker to no end. It takes vision, patience, modeling, and encouragement on the parents' part, and plenty of practice on the children's part for the sibling relationship to be a positive one. Yes, children are young, but relationships are real. As much as adults struggle with having positive relationships, children do as well. They need their parents' help.
While parents want to nurture a positive relationship between their children, many times they don't know exactly how to go about it. Should they have their children room together so that they will develop a closer bond? Should they insist on their children taking classes together or sharing hobbies? Or should they step back and let their children figure out the relationship and hope for the best?
Just like so many other areas in life, children need specific instruction and good modeling to know how to develop good sibling relationships. As most parents know, siblings do not become best friends automatically just because they are living in the same house. Children need parents to help nurture this very important relationship.
Try these five tips to help strengthen the connection between your children:
As often as you can, intentionally nurture the sibling relationship with good modeling, opportunity, encouragement and teaching. It's impossible for kids to always get along, but at least you now have a few strategies to help create harmony among your kids. What other strategies have worked for you?