People often talk to me about their children not getting along. Here are some of the expectations we’ve had that I often share:
- Act like friends. We expect our children to be friendly towards each other, to treat each other with respect and consideration. We would like them to be best friends but that is for them to work out. But… the standard is in our house that if you can’t be friendly towards your sibling you don’t have the freedom to spend time with your peer-friends.
- Be together – unlike the norm where kids today have their own space, their own time, their own activities we have always expected the children to play in the family area, and be available to each other. They may not all do the same thing but they are there together. (The children have always been able to ask if they can be by themselves and depending on their attitude, I do let this happen – asking is more to monitor their attitudes and relationships than to prohibit private space/time.)
- Playdates include siblings unless otherwise requested. Our expectation of playing together continues even when friends come over. Though this is the norm, once again our children can ask for exclusive time with their friend (which we more than often grant but we keep it to about 50% of the playdate time)
- No “Best” friend. Best friends are exclusive and hurtful to others. (This rule doesn’t apply to siblings :-))
- We deal with attitudes towards siblings, the same as we watch attitudes towards authority. This helps to snip things in the bud before it becomes a full blown issue. Generally speaking there are two sides to the story and both sides gets attended to.
But ultimately our children’s hearts have to be turned towards each other. We can set a family culture that expects the above, and that will help them to a degree, but bottom line is they need to want a friendship with their sibling, they need to see their sibling as a blessing rather than a cursing (which unfortunately is often their attitude).
What changes their hearts?
Establishing God’s values in their hearts
- Study the “one another” verses in the Bible and find personal application for each member of the family to express towards each member
- Study the idea of “unity” and “living in harmony” especially in the New Testament
Living by these values
- Model – how do we live with our family-of-God brothers and sisters
- Model – how do we relate to our natural family.
- Consequences for choosing to live selfishly (consequences develop an understanding of the importance of these values we are trying to teach to our children).