During the Valentine’s Day season we often relate this time to the love a man and woman share. But I would like to speak to the loving bond of siblings.
I have to admit, one of the joys (and frustrations) of parenting is cultivating that bond between brothers and sisters. While on the one hand my children certainly did their fair share of fighting and bickering (the frustrating part), they also engaged in total loyalty and love for one another. However, the latter didn’t come without some intention on our part.
There were many ways that my husband and I encouraged our kids to love each other, but there were three that I’d like to share with you. I hope these three ways will benefit you in doing the same with your kids.
1. Teach them to cheer. As with any parent we had our kids in sports, music lessons, dance and other activities. The temptation was to allow our child’s siblings to do other things while we attended these events. We certainly heard the complaints from our kids: “Do I have to go? It’s boring!” To not deal with their complaints, it would have been easy just to let them do something else so we could enjoy the game, dance, or recital. But we made a resolute decision; we were going to teach our kids how to cheer for their sibling. We wanted our kids to look beyond themselves and see the need their sibling had for encouragement.
Teaching our kids how to cheer for their siblings and be present during their accomplishments has not only taught them that others are important, it has given them a voice in their sibling’s need for support. Instead of saying to your kids, “You have to go see your brother play baseball”; say, “Your brother will play so much better because you are there encouraging him. He values what you think of him.”
Give your children a purpose in being at their sibling’s events.
As adult children now, our kids value each other’s opinions and support. For example, when our oldest son went on his first mission trip to Bangladesh, each of his siblings wrote him a letter to read while he was on the plane. Often throughout his trip, he read those letters over and over. When the mission trip was hard, his sister’s words lifted him up and gave him the courage to carry on. His youngest brother made him laugh, while the other reminded him of why he was on this trip. I don’t think our kids would have even thought to encourage him in this way if this was not the norm growing up.
Teach your kids to cheer their siblings; it keeps the bond of love going long after the growing years are over.
2.) Teach them to share. Sharing doesn’t mean to allow your kids to run wild in their sibling’s room taking what they want. But instead, sharing is learning to join in each other’s happiness. On each child’s birthday, we did not insist the birthday child share his or her new gift; instead, we taught their siblings to be excited about their joy; they would watch their brother or sister open and play with their new toy. In time, as they were excited for their sibling, it was a natural consequence for the birthday child to share the gift with the other.
Of course, there were lessons of respect for other’s things taught and waiting their turn to play with each other’s toys. There were even those times when a child just needed time to enjoy their new gift alone. But we found over time, that because we taught our children to be happy for someone else’s happiness, they wanted to share what they had.
Teach your kids to care about other’s happiness; it seems that caring begets sharing.
3.) Teach them to sacrifice. Teaching our children how to sacrifice for their siblings first comes by watching us sacrifice for them. When our children see us giving up what we want for their sake, they learn the love of sacrifice. Over time they see this as normal.
It’s a beautiful thing to see one sibling have much and notice that their brother or sister has nothing, and then split what they have so their sibling can have something.
Besides a parent modeling sacrifice, teach your kids to notice what their brother or sister has or doesn’t have. Ask questions like, “How do you think they feel right now?” Teach them to look at their sibling’s eyes and pay attention to how they change when they are happy or sad. Sacrifice teaches children to notice others when they are hurting. When a child sympathizes with the feelings of another child, it’s a lot easier for them to sacrifice for them.
This simple act of sacrifice raises children into adults who choose to be there to help their siblings when they are going through tough times. They find that the difficult times in life are smoother when they tarry together through them. They learn that sacrifice means to care. They learn to put their differences aside and put the other first above their needs. They find joy in this type of giving.
Teaching our kids to love through cheering for one another, sharing with each other, and sacrificing their wants for the need of others is not an easy task. But the hard work produces adults who choose to be a blessing in their world and not a drain. It also teaches them to lead like Jesus, love like Jesus and reflect Him to others. They cause others to question, “What makes that person different from what I see in this selfish world?” What a great platform to work from so that others can know Christ!
“Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus” Philippians 2:3-5.