One of my biggest regrets in life was not being a friend to my brother as we were growing up. I have barely any memories of us hanging out, and very few conversations can I remember between us two before I moved back home when I was 20. I'm four years older and never looked at him as anything other than a pesty little brother.
There are hundreds of things that I want to instill in my children before they leave my home, but one of the most important ones for me is how they relate to their siblings. The truth is that the sibling relationship is the longest relationship you will have on this earth. It is longer than your relationship with your parents, with your spouse, and with your own children. These are your people and they deserve a big investment into the relationship.
Here are some of the ways that we are helping our children establish long lasting relationships with their siblings:
1. You have to make it right
My kids fight. Your kids fight. All kids fight. My kids are mean. Your kids are mean. All kids are mean. Now that we have that out of the way, here's what we do about it. When one of our kids hurts another one of our kids either physically or emotionally we have them make it right. Sometimes they don't even think they should apologize, but we explain to them that it doesn't matter if you meant to hurt their feelings, the fact is that their feelings are hurt, and so therefor you owe them an apology and some sympathy.
Most of the times we still have to force this and walk through the motions with them, but every once in a while I see this play out on its own and my momma heart swells with pride. I'm not proud of myself, but yet proud of them. Proud of them for valuing that person enough to make it right.
*This was a moment when two siblings couldn't stop being mean to each other, so their punishment was to hold hands the rest of the trip.*
2. You don't always get your way
There are a lot of kids around our house. For some reason when you jump past the three kid mark all of a sudden you have a large family. It is what it is, and it's helping them learn so much about life, community, and how to work together. One thing we are trying to teach our kids is that you don't always get your way. I think this is a common parenting goal, so I'm not saying anything ground breaking, but I think we have to review this one more often just based on the sheer amount of people around here that want to get their way all the time.
We're constantly talking about how we can serve each other, and how they can let their brothers or sister enjoy something first and then they can get a turn. Putting others needs and wants above your own is a hard task, and one that I still struggle with, so hopefully we'll help them learn some aspects of it at a young age.
3. Families stick together
We say this to our boys all the time: “brothers stick together” and you'll often hear me refer to our entire family as “team Ivey”. It's a small concept that has a big impact as our kids get older. My kids are all within four years of each other, so there will be lots of life stages that they will journey through together. To help my kids understand that we are all in this together is crucial. I want them to know that when the going gets tough and you feel as though the whole world is against you, you always have 3 people that are for you and fighting for you. Your brothers and sister will be there for you because you guys are a team.
4. These are your friends
Not only are we all related because we are in a family together, but these are some of your best friends. I pray that my kids will continue to be friends throughout their life. That they will realize what a good thing they have in each other. That God has given them this built in community and friends right under their own roof. That they don't have to look far for best friends because they have each other.
I'm often noticing that I don't do a good job of scheduling play dates or inviting friends from school over to our house, and it's not because I don't want to, it's because I don't need to. My boys are never sitting around bored wishing they had someone to play with because they have each other.
5. You will get hurt
The older I get the more I realize that getting hurt by people you love is a part of this thing called life. It will happen to you, and not just once, but over and over again. We are all humans with ugly hearts that look out for their own good. I'm like that, and so are you. My kids are like that, and so are yours. I'm hoping and praying that we can teach our kids how to love someone even after they have let you down. The truth is that they will get hurt by their siblings, and they will get hurt by me, but we want them to learn to forgive and to continue to love.
*This was my oldest being sweet and holding his sister's hand at the Pecan Street Festival so she didn't get lost. Melt my heart!*
Helping our kids learn all of these things will hopefully help them as they venture out in to the real word and make friends and start dating and all that fun stuff. (Yeah right, my kids dating is not a fun thought for me!)
I recently listened to an NPR podcast that was interviewing Jeffrey Kluger, the author of The Sibling Effect, and it sparked this whole thought in my mind. I look forward to reading this, have any of you read this book or any on this subject?