The habit of building sibling relationships

Each and every one so different. Five unique children with their own gifts. Each with individual needs. When Kim dubbed us the Hodgepodge, she was right. And when you have such a mix – even with less or more of a mix – this becomes a daily challenge…

“Get out of my room!” “Mo – ommm! She’s bothering me!”

I’m reminded of Bill Cosby’s routine, “…down came the informer.” Do you have one of those? We do and I have to admit the information has saved us from disaster a few times. But I also find myself, like Cosby’s wife, sometimes talking to the ceiling. “Do I have to come up there?”

Oh well. Shrug. Sheesh. Siblings! The world would have us believe it is normal for brothers and sisters not to get along. Sibling rivalry is a prerequisite for family life. No way can brothers and sisters be best friends. Are you kidding?

Does that mean parents should just give up? Sigh a heavy sigh and ignore the ugliness because it is normal?

Don’t buy into the lie. Do not lower your standards to match the world’s.

Why not? Because God made families. He designed them. God wants brothers and sisters to be best friends. Remember that we are to be in the world but not of the world. So how in the world is that possible?

Set standards for speech by only allowing words that are kind and necessary. Expect your standards to be challenged. Expect hard days. Know that it is a long-term investment. Anything good is worthy of our investment. Especially our families and all the little relationships being built.

But it starts with the parents. Remember what I said I’ve found out on this parenting journey? Your child will learn more by watching you – how you handle a tough situation, how you make a decision, how you love the Lord. Your children will pick up on your habits.

Let me give you an example. After our youngest was born and in the heat of the overwhelm I would let out an exasperated “HHHUUUUUHHH!” Yet another mess for this tired mama to clean up. Not long after I began that habit, a little girl that lives with us stole my line. She used it on her sister. My habit reflected in my daughter. A bit of retraining for us both followed.

Parents must teach children to work disagreements out. I’ve listed some specific resources at the end of this post. Sarah Mally and her siblings also share many ways to work out sibling issues in their book, Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends. While we found the book hard to read aloud with our age range of siblings, the most successful habit has been ATTACH meetings. Our eldest read the Mally’s book on her own. She has taken the lead and is using the resource offered on the Brothers and Sisters site for ATTACH meetings.

A practical application. An invitation to a sibling, a spiral notebook just for the two of them, a special meeting time, Bible study, prayer … all explained here.

Last year, the eldest shared this: “ATTACH stands for Advancing Together Toward Accountability, Christ-likeness, and Harmony…You have a special meeting separately with each sibling, and then I like to have something called Special Sundays, where we all do a Bible reading and play Bible games. We will do this on the first and third Sunday of every month. Me and 9-yr-old are having a picnic on Monday together. Me and 6-yr-old are having one the next day. 3-yr-old following the next day. Then we start the meetings in my room.”

Remember who the battle it truly against. It’s a topic straight from my heart. Ever since our eldest led her sister to the Lord last summer there has been a battle. Tears and broken hearts. I’ve come to realize that the chief of lies wants to sever that special bond between our two daughters. He seeks to steal and destroy. We’ve put on our full armor and are taking our stand.

ATTACH meetings really speak to the heart of sibling relationships. Highlight their importance. Little meetings one on one. Nurturing brother and sister bonds. Growing in accountable.

So now my children never fight and they always obey. NOT. 🙂 Does this book solve all the problems in our little relationships? No. We live in a fallen world. It will never be perfect. Now that I’ve shared this I’m sure you will see me in the grocery store with a crying toddler and siblings pushing each other in the cereal aisle. Likely I’ll be letting out an exasperated “HHHUUUUUHHH!” (But hopefully not). It’s not a perfect solution. It’s a blessed tool.

“Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Psalm133:1

Parents must set the standards. Fight the good fight for your family. Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends helps us hit the problem at the source. Allows siblings gradually to see each other in Christ’s love. To become best friends.

Lastly but most importantly – pray. Pray. Pray. I draw on practical, specific prayers, praying over my children from Stormie O’Martian’s Power of a Praying Parent:

“…Help them to love, value, appreciate, and respect one another so that the God-ordained tie between them cannot be broken…I pray that there be no strain, breach, misunderstanding, arguing, fighting, or separating of ties…”

This post was a long time in draft. When I read Ann Voskamp’s What Every Family Really Needs to be Strong, I knew it was time to share about our Hodgepodge of brothers and sisters. Please take the time to click over and read her post on (In)Courage.

“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” ~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I’ve personally seen the difference the habit of ATTACH meetings has made. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing ways to help cultivate communication. A Hodgepodge, if you will, of practical ways to develop the relationships in our families.

Resources we use:

By Doorposts: The Brother Offended, If-Then, Blessing and Go to the Ant charts, The “Put On” Chart (with paper dolls!)

Kim linked to this a while ago on littlesanctuary: Help! There’s a bully in my house by Spunky Homeschool. I adore practical and the bathroom is also our work-it-out room. Otherwise, I’d lose my mind playing referee.

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8