Teaching siblings to respect one another, in my opinion, is one of the most important skills for children to learn. As a child, your siblings are usually your first experience with relationships and interacting with other people’s feelings and emotions. If your child doesn’t learn to respect their siblings, it can have adverse effects on every aspect of their life from school to future career and family life. Research shows that the relationship one has with their sibling(s) depicts how future relationships and friendships will flourish. Luckily, teaching respect isn’t very difficult.
I remember when I brought my second son home from the hospital. I thought I had done a good job at preparing my 22 month old son for the birth of his sibling by making sure he felt the he was a special part of the pregnancy. We took him to doctor appointments, we let him feel the movement in my belly, we made him feel special by telling him he was going to be a BIG BROTHER and what an important role it was, and we even took him to a 3D ultrasound where he was able to see his brother before he was born. It was through these steps that we encouraged and began fostering respect between the siblings.
We ended bring the new baby home prior to my older son. When my older son arrived there was a flurry of activity as friends and other family members had come to meet the new baby. When my parents (who were last to leave) said good-bye to my oldest, he got upset and told his grandparents to take the new baby home with him! So much for all our preparation! Luckily, this was the only time my son resented his new brother and as we look back now, we think he misunderstood the situation.
What if that wasn’t the case?
Here are tips to help foster respect between siblings.
1. Listening Skills – How many times have you interrupted a fight between siblings only to find out that they are both fighting on the same side? I remember one time, my boys were arguing about my job. One said I delivered mail for a living and the other said I drove a car. Both are true. If they had listened to each other they would have understood that they were both describing and agreeing that Mommy delivered mail, but they were describing separate aspects of my job. To respect someone, you need to listen to the words they are saying and the feelings behind the words. It takes a lot of practice.
2. Golden Rule – This is one of the most important rules in my house: “Treat others as you would want to be treated”. Would you like to be yelled at? Would you like someone to grab something out of your hand? How would that make you feel? I use these situations as a teaching tool to place the children in their sibling’s shoes to see if they can see why their behavior is hurting their siblings.
3. Learn to agree to disagree – It is human nature to disagree. I have never come across a situation where everyone agrees 100% of the time. Teaching your children how to gracefully disagree is important to maintaining respect. Teaching them to voice their opinions in a calm, positive manner without using disgraceful tones or hurtful words can be difficult, but the end result is very rewarding.
4. Make the positive experiences outweigh the negative ones -Research studies show that a relationship will excel if the positive experiences outweigh the negative ones by a ratio of 5 to 1. This means that you need to encourage situations where siblings are getting along and avoid (or stop them before they begin) the ones that cause siblings to squabble. In our house, reading is a very positive event. My DS8 loves helping my DS6 learn to read and they both love reading to DD2. It is a great activity where they can cuddle up on the couch or bed, share some quality time and learn to respect one another.
5. Emphasize the importance of family bonds – Growing up, I was always told that friends and relationships may come and go, but family is forever. We might not always get along, but I know if I am ever in trouble, hurt or struggling, my sisters will be there for me. I share this feeling often with my children and reinforce the idea that they should always be there for one another and protect one another. There was a situation when my boys were younger where a boy who was the same age as my eldest son would play with both boys. Occasionally, that boy would encourage my eldest to hide from his brother or not let him play. After doing this twice, my son realized that it was hurting his little brother and stood up to his friend. He said his brother came first and it was his job as the older brother to protect the younger one!
You can find Jenn and her crazy crew over on her blog, 1Heart1Family, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Jenn is a working mom to two amazing boys and one Princess. 1Heart1Family is a blog about raising children, life with celiac disease, delicious Gluten Free recipes and helpful product reviews to help you survive the crazy journey called parenthood!