My kids enjoy each other’s company – they are friends. But that is not to say they don’t have arguments or discussions that damage their relationship. They are also very different from each other – their perspective on things, their communication styles, their personalities – there is going to be conflict. The thing is, they’ve been taught how to get along. We cannot just hope for siblings to be friends – we must teach them, and give them the skills to be so.
7 Skills that Help Siblings be Friends
These 7 relationship skills are the things that we taught our kids, they were a part of our family life – and that I believe became the foundation for our kids being friends with their siblings.
Love one another
Love one another is a central verse in our family. It sets the stage for being kind, sharing, helping, making up after they’ve had an argument. We do this because we love each other. We love each other because God made us a family and secondly because God made that other person and he loves them and died for them, so we can love them too! God asks us to love them too.
Respect each other as individuals
We taught our kids to recognise and respect each other’s differences, their strengths and weaknesses. As they grew older they were able to depend on each other’s strengths – one was good at spelling and organising, another good at explaining concepts, one was good at fixing things, and another at wrapping gifts, making things beautiful and making us laugh. This created an atmosphere of acceptance and working together. Even today, they still rely on each other’s strengths where they have a need or weakness.
You can encourage but you can’t boss
We taught our kids that they can encourage but they are never the boss. The Bible tells us to encourage each other to good works – but in the heart of a child this can soon become bossiness. We expected our kids to encourage their siblings to do the right thing and then leave it be. We taught them that they can influence the people around them but they can’t make them do the right thing.
Pray for each other
We had a habit in our family of praying for each other at different times. Though it is easy to pray that God would deal with the sibling that has hurt or frustrated them this is not a helpful prayer! Instead, our desire was that they would pray a blessing for their sibling. This was as much for their own heart – that they would leave the judgement to God, and that they themselves would not sin against their brother by being angry or getting even. That they could come to a place where they wanted good things for their brother or sister.
Serve one another
The expectation was that they would drop what they were doing if their sibling needed help. They could pick up and return something that belonged to someone else, even if they didn’t use it or drop it. They could open a door if someone was carrying a heavy load. They could stop doing what they were doing to answer someone’s questions or help the other person find answers, they could help them look for what was lost, offer to do a chore if their sibling was overloaded or busy, make their bed for them – the list goes on. These are everyday family life situations where our kids have an opportunity to serve each other. But they have to be taught to see the needs and they have to be taught to have a heart that is available.
There is always going to be relational issues. We need to be humble enough to acknowledge we’ve done the wrong thing and to ask for forgiveness. On the other hand, we need to be humble enough to know that we too are forgiven and be quick to offer forgiveness to those who ask for it. This was something that we practiced and revisited often in our family.
Any list on relational skills is going to include this issue of communication – to be brave to say what is on your heart, and to listen to not only the words but the heart as well, to read body language, to listen reflectively and ask for clarification, to ask questions instead of presuming. I think most issues arise because someone has not taken the time to listen carefully or respond appropriately.
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Siblings can have a good relationship with each other but they need to be given the skills to do so. We spend a lot of time in our families teaching our kids how to be a good friend with other people outside of the home, but really, the relationships in the home they are our first practice ground and our priority relationships that we should be focused on. It is as we teach our kids how to be a good friend to their sibling that they will grow and develop a real friendship that will last the years.
What’s your top tip to encourage your kids to be friends?
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