I am painfully annoying and stubborn when it comes to teaching my kids life lessons. I am that yapping Chihuahua that gets on your case and doesn’t let issues go until they are cleaned off the slate and resolved properly. I don’t like tensions to sit, frustrations to fester and grow, or wrongs not right-ed. With all do respect, I do pick my battles and am a huge proponent of letting them work it out on their own. But, until that instinct kicks in to work it out, you bet I’ll be there to make a life lesson out of it.
Maybe that’s why my kids have the uncanny ability to break up and make up with complete “clean slate” ability, as if the terrible tornado of frustration with each other never even happened. I learn from them a lot. They teach me and remind me to “let it go”— to not hold grudges and clean the slate for real. I learn a lot.
Some days are so sweet and simple between my brood of four. They find projects to do together, play school, make a craft, or all get together to play cars for hours. Other days, I am a passenger on their emotional highs and lows of tattling, snatching, fighting, whining, and pestering. Those are the days that my Nutella-clutching in angst or Darth Vader voice make a quick and dirty guest appearance.
But for the most part, I agree with my inner circle consensus that my munchkins are pretty fantastic and a close bunch, even on the “off” days. The truth is, my kids are no different than yours. All kids have similar tendencies to interrelate through all of their stages. Since I have been asked by a myriad of people, as to the “how” to teach your kids to get along so well, I decided that this blog is an immediate priority to help you with those OMG moments.
My philosophy is this:
Get all of the hair-pulling life lessons ingrained when they’re young, and you will be so much more thankful when you see it play out as instinct as they mature. If you slack on these lessons, you will have a harder time as they grow (and a bigger mouth they use to talk back)… but no worries, it’s all “fixable” and “teachable” still.
Here are some of my top strategies to creating healthy, helpful, and strong sibling relationships:
1. Getting down and dirty
Why is it that when siblings fight or disagree, visiting family almost always jump to separate the dueling duo so that they leave each other alone for peace? No way! Get in the thick of it with them and teach them to learn from each other’s point of views.
Teach them to communicate their feelings respectfully, and they will also learn about self-expression and that their feelings are valid, real, and important. Teach them to work it out and come to an understanding, apologize, and/or compromise. This learned skill will most certainly follow them for life. Don’t cut it short just because your anxiety or frustration in hearing them upset is overwhelming in the moment. Work through it instead!
strategy for success: circle time
However many kids are angry, or if you have one and the issue is between parent and child, call for a conference. Ask the child or children to meet in a certain place and sit across from each other or in a circle for better eye contact. If there is a loud clash of emotions, grab a fun item to pass around to enable turn-taking for speaking.
All points should start with an “I feel” statement that will add simplicity, clarity, and ability to own their feelings. Let the child speak about anything and everything, even if it’s a built-up frustration from a week ago. Let them vent—it’s the only way to heal and move on. In the end, they must acknowledge each other’s feelings with an apology or compromise.
2. when in doubt, hug it out
When people are pissed, they DO NOT want to be touched, much less hugged from the offending person. Why? Well, naturally, he/she is angry and stuck in the moment. A hug will only serve to soften and dissipate the anger, when that child wants to be acknowledged first.
Sometimes kids don’t want to really let go every time and may not mean the apology that you encourage them to say in mediating. On occasion, the angst is too big to break… sometimes they just need some encouragement.
strategy for success: tension release
After an apology, I always have the kids hug it out. The physical hug is more than meaningful. If they refuse, start counting in 5’s. This represents the amount of seconds they will have to do a 2-arm full hug. The first few times, they will push the limits and you may have 40 or more seconds of hugging, but stick with this.
What’s the point?! Well, watch what happens when you test it out. The hug is distant and annoyed at first, and then it becomes funny and loose. The hug becomes silly and you will see the anger melt away and laughter resume. Voila, clean slate. If the hug doesn’t interest you, I have also heard of parents using the oversized shirt for Siamese-inducing closeness.
3. close quarters
Perhaps the biggest lesson of all is to encourage your kids to play together. People are inherently different. Your household is a dichotomy of the real world. Issues, personalities, and all, it is vital to teach your kids how to communicate and resolve issues without clubbing each other over the head with a toy.
At home, it’s easy for opposing personalities to keep their distance from each other, whether buried in electronics, in their own rooms, or just complete avoidance. Not for us. Whether it’s a craft, group project, or just plain ol’ social time, encourage togetherness as siblings and as family.
strategy for success: circle time
My kids range from 10- to 3-years old, so the eldest and youngest require creativity and leadership to interrelate on a constant basis, but do it regardless, and praise praise praise! Whether you encourage them to share a room (even if you have ample space in your house to separate), spend time in each other’s rooms, or stay on the same floor of your house at a time, this principle is important in establishing a healthy relationship. They will have to learn about sharing, respectfulness in a space, helping each other, and constant communication. Thanks to my mama-bear personality, I can proudly say that I can eve’s-drop from afar and listen to them fight, bicker, and resolve alone. When the issue is too great, I can also just announce, “kids, blue carpet now!” That’s all I have to say for them to sit in a circle, grab the nearest item and speak in turns, until the problem is worked out. Apologies ALWAYS happen, hugs or high fives sweeten the deal, and my kids genuinely love each other and are proud friends to each other and with their own friends.
It’s important to demonstrate that all personalities and all relationships will hit bumps in the road, but our communication and understanding is key to making it survive and thrive—even in marriage (but I’ll save that juicy topic for another blog).