Really?! No…not really – I’m not sure how to fashion that kind of serenity in a home, but there are some things you can do to help reduce sibling rivalry, and to provide a foundation for your children to truly love and care for each other as they grow older.
I’m raising four children. Two are adults and two are quickly on their way to adulthood. Each of the siblings are close to each other. I’ve often pondered how it is that I am so blessed to have these four wonderful children who genuinely care about each other. It’s been a joy to hear one daughter comment how she wants to find a future husband who is like her brother, or watch my son pick up his little sister after a concert telling her how proud he is of her as he swings her around in a circle. These things don’t just happen by chance, there’s usually a parent or two who has fostered this kind of relationship for years.
Here are some secrets I’ve found that have worked for my family. One area that is a problem in most families is in the area of disagreement. I’ve tried to help my children in knowing how to disagree well. It isn’t ok in my home for someone to talk disrespectfully to a family member no matter how young or old they are. My toddlers were corrected and directed how to say things kindly. I have made it a habit to talk to my children respectfully regardless of where my emotions want to lead me.
Another tool I implemented was that of an effectual apology. A quick “I’m sorry” from one sister to another after a painful exchange was said, is not sufficient for this Mother. A true, “I’m sorry,” comes from the lips of someone who is able to identify what they had done, verbalize it, and make a change in future behavior. When my children were little you might have seen me coaching a daughter and hearing her say, I’m sorry for calling you ugly, that was mean of me, will you please forgive me?” The offended child had to decide if they were willing to accept the apology or not. Sometimes that process might take a few hours, or even longer. I tried not to force the forgiveness. In order for forgiveness to be genuine, it needs to come from the heart. This pattern probably isn’t perfect, but as a rule of thumb it has worked well in my family.
My children fought, made up and fought again, but the fights lessened over time. Today they are close and call each other friend. What a satisfying legacy for this Mom.
Erin Morgan is a licensed professional counselor at the Center with over 20 years of counseling experience. To learn more about Erin, or to set up an appointment click here.