Yesterday, my youngest came home with a paper that she had written at school. The question was "If you could spend the afternoon with any member of your extended family, who would it be?" This is what my youngest wrote:
I would spend the time with my sister because she loves me and without her I would be super bored.
She cheers me up when I am sad.
When I am hurt she gets my mom and she's always there for me.
When I read it, I had to smile. Despite the way my girls act sometimes, they really get it. They understand that their sister is going to be there for them. Both girls know that when the chips are down her sister will be standing there beside her.
I want my girls to be friends as well as sisters -- the kind of friends who will drop everything for the other one. John 15:13 says "Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." That's the kind of friends I want my girls to be.
Siblings go through phases where they often seem not to like each other. But, if we foster an atmosphere of working together and always supporting each other in our families, our kids will get it.
- Make supporting each other a priority in your family. In our house, unless the weather is beyond miserable or the other child has her own event, we all go to every game or concert. We tell our girls that it's part of being a family. If we're at a game, the sibling not playing is expected to sit, watch and cheer while the game is going on -- no going off to play on the playground or run around with the other younger siblings. The reason we're all there is to support the child playing, and we expect the non-participating sibling to be supporting her sister as well.
- Foster cooperation. While the temptation is often to separate our kids when they're arguing, forcing them to work together to accomplish a task makes them work through their issues. If my girls are at each others' throats, I'll often give them a chore to complete together. Ecclesiastes 4:9 says "Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor." Usually by the time my girls are done with their chore, they've forgotten what they were arguing about in the first place.
- Don't tolerate words that tear each other down. When your kids start to say mean things to each other, send them outside to sit on the front step -- no matter the weather. Calmly explain that you don't allow that kind of talk in your house and send them out the door. Tell them they can come back in when they have tamed their tongues and apologized to each other.
- Don't compare. Each of your children is unique. They are not going to react the same way or accomplish the same things. No matter how great the temptation, avoid comparing your children. This sets up competition and resentment. There's enough natural competition between siblings. We, as parents, don't need to add to it.
Family should be an extension of God's love here on earth. The arms of your family members should be the tangible arms of God's love. Help your children be those arms to their siblings, so that atmosphere of love will last even when you're no longer around to encourage it.