My brother and I volunteered to be on the “work crew” for the 6th grade retreat at our church this year. We set up inflatable games, delivered snacks and generally held back a couple hundred crazy 6th graders from the doors when it was lunch time.
It’s been along time since I’ve hung out with my brother by myself. We had a blast pal-ing around, cracking jokes and working together. Early in the trip, after we had been talking over each other (and probably steering the whole conversation), we told the people we were with, “By the way, we’re brother and sister.” The underlying message was, “That’s why we’re so weird with each other. We don’t talk like this with any random person!” A few of them commented on how close we were and how much fun we had together.
The depth of love and connection I have with my brother is one reason I want my kids to be close. I want them to have that built-in best friend for the rest of their lives.
My kids are only 11 and 8, so I’m not sure how it all works, but here’s what I’ve done to cultivate the friendship between my kids (and I think some of what my parents must have done when my brother and I were kids):
Brainwash them. My mom used to always tell me when I was aggravated with my brother, “He’s the only brother you’ll ever have.” She wanted me to see the value in him, not view him as a tag-along or pest.
I do the same kind of thing now when I tell my son, “Your sister is your best friend. You’ll have lots of other friends, but you’ll always have her as your best friend.” When they were little, I made them smother each other in hugs and kisses before bed, told them to say, “I love you!” or “You’re my best friend!” and now they do all that without prompting!
Keep them together. Kids are busy nowadays. They jump from school to sports to tutoring to church to scouts all in a day. Most of these environments separate kids by age and gender. So, most of the time, your kids are split up. They spend all day – even all weekend sometimes, separated from their siblings and potential best friend.
We do a hybrid-homeschool (2 days at school, 3 days at home) because I want my kids to be together more than not. I want them to learn to work together, play together and even fight together. You don’t have to homeschool to keep your kids together, but you might want to look at your schedule to see a spot to cultivate some sibling togetherness – weekly meals, family outings or movie nights can do the trick.
Demand friendship. I will not allow my kids to go the way of the TV sitcom. I don’t want my 11 year old daughter rolling her eyes at her annoying brother. I don’t want my 8 year old son to actively think of ways to sabotage his sister.
I’m not a perfectly consistent parent by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t let fighting, aggravated voices and arguing continue for any amount of time. I’ll model the words they should have said, make them apologize or recite, Proverbs 15:1. Nine times out of ten it ends with giggles and wrestled hugs on the floor.
Having a close sibling relationship is a gift. I think it’s training for future relationships, specifically marriage (think about it – you share rooms, chores and belongings as siblings, it’s the same when you’re married)! I also believe it’s a tether to your immediate family. Strong sibling bonds, strengthen the bond of your entire family which, if you’re working on centering your family on the Jesus and His Word, can only strengthen the bond to Him!
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