Frankly, I knew that with a large family there was a lot I couldn’t give my kids. We didn’t get to go on extravagant family vacations. We went to Disney World once in twenty-five years. The list of what I couldn’t give my children, by today’s standards, is long.
But those things were never my goal for my family. There are more important gifts we can give our children, like raising a close family. That was my goal. That was what I wanted most for my kids.
In essence, I wanted to create the family I didn’t have growing up, but always wanted.
What holds a family together? It’s not Disneyland or trips to the zoo. As much as we want to give good things to our children, the very best we can give them is close relationships. Teaching them to how to overcome disagreements, to forgive, and to disagree without ripping the other person’s heart out are all skills they will need in their adult lives. It begins when they are children, and they can practice on their siblings.
This is not an exhaustive list. Just a few of my favorites. Adjust them according to your children’s ages. The point is, be consistent and set the standard you want them to follow. Then have fun creating ways to break the tension by laughing.
Next page: 3 Conflict-Management Tools to Build Friendships Between Siblings
1. Shake on It
My children began sharpening their debating skills with just one word in their vocabulary arsenal. Even our youngest could cause an argument with a sibling. I would intervene and make them shake hands. Three times. They would shout as loudly as they could with large, exaggerated handshakes that began as high as they could reach. One! Two! Three! Friends!
This would be repeated until they were both giggling hard enough to forget what they were mad about. Usually it took about three tries.
2. Repenting Bench
The repenting bench is different from a time-out chair. For our repenting bench it took two siblings who were fighting or arguing. These two would be sent to the bench (we used an old piano bench). There they would sit until each one confessed to their part of the fight. There was no blaming allowed, only accepting, admitting, and repenting for the part each played in the quarrel. The ticket to freedom was repentance and forgiveness.
3. The Deserted Island Method
Have you ever noticed that when older children spend a lot of time away from home, or with certain friends, they tend to get more annoyed at their siblings? Mine sure did. So when that began to happen we balanced the scales by reversing the trend. Making a child stay home and play with siblings or spend time in his own home with his parents only sounds like a death sentence.
Siblings argue and torment one another. Close families aren’t the ones that never quarrel. They are ones that learn to forgive and learn to have fun together. Use sibling rivalry as an opportunity to tie their bond tighter.