The relationship that siblings have with each other is vital to their character development, their sense of personal history and even the happiness they feel in old age. A positive relationship with a brother or a sister in childhood will result in a best friend for life. It is often the longest and most important relationship we can have, which is why it is so important for parents to nurture it from the start.
Here are seven tips to help your kids to get along and build a life-long friendship:
1. Never compare your kids
The number one issue that causes lasting resentment between siblings is parental comparison. When a parent compares one child to another, what that child understands is that they are not good enough. According to Kids in the House expert, Vanessa Van Petten, it creates conflict between siblings and can increase tensions in the household. Her advice is for parents to teach older kids how to mentor younger ones. “A lot of the times [children] don’t realize they actually are a role model for their younger sibling.” She says. “If they take their younger sibling out to play or to talk to them about relationships, it can set up a nice mentor relationship between the two of them and lessen rivalry in the household.”
2. Avoid favoritism
Sibling rivalry is inevitable. In fact, in the 2-4 age group, kids will have some kind of fight every 6.3 minutes.” That is almost 10 fights an hour!
According to best selling author Betsy Brown Braun, “When a parent gets involved in sibling fighting, he tends to be in the role of judge and jury. When that happens, inevitably, you are showing favoritism towards one child or the other” and that is something you want to avoid.
3. Do not tolerate harmful or negative behavior
Sibling bullying is the most common type of bullying: 75% of kids report being bullied by a sibling. This type of bullying can be extremely harmful and create lasting trauma for kids. It is up to parents to nip any negative behavior in the bud and emphasize mutual respect before bullying gets out of hand.
Dr. Pamela Varady, a Child and Adult Psychologist and sought-after parenting expert, recommends parents use descriptive praise to shape good sibling behavior. “Mostly what we do is criticize. You need to give the children at least 10 descriptive praise statements a day, “ She says. “And you can do it to both siblings at the same time. Wow! Both of you are sitting here eating. Nobody’s fighting. You guys are great siblings. Thank you.”
4. Hold weekly family meetings
Family meetings are a great opportunity for everyone in the family to air their grievances. They are a time for families to gather and freely communicate with each other without repercussions. Family meetings can be an opportunity for family members to apologize to each other and eliminate any bad feelings that may have built up during the week. Actress Brooke Burke emphasizes the importance of family meetings as a way to show solidarity and commitment to each other. “the deep meaning behind it is to prove to your children that above all, first and foremost, our family comes first, and our family is most important.” She says.
5. Create special family time for you and your kids to share together
Set aside one day a week as a family day where the focus is just on spending quality time together and having fun. This ritual can be something the entire family looks forward to and has the potential to create many special memories for your kids to share. If parents turn off their phones and focus all of their attention on their kids, the kids are going to feel valued and be proud to be part of their family. These kinds of memories will help to bound siblings for life.
6. Create one-on-one time for each child
After watching 9,000 parenting videos, Kids in the House CEO and founder Leana Greene has this to say about creating positive sibling relationships and having a lasting impact on your kids: “one of my ultimate parenting advice is to take the time with each of your kids. If you have more than one child, make a date each week with each one of your children. When you spend one-on-one time, that’s the time that fills them up.”
7. Encourage your kids to maintain their relationship as they get older
As kids get older, their paths may diverge and cause them to drift apart. While you can, encourage your kids to do things together to maintain their relationship. It may sometimes seem forced, but one day they will thank you for it. “There is nothing like having a brother or sister as an adult, that is truly your best friend.”