Our kids get along really well. I mean, really well. Overall, anyway–the last few days not withstanding. They can literally play together without any major fuss for hours. I didn’t think much about this until I started reading homeschool blogs and saw that sibling relationships are considered one of the big perks to homeschooling–which infers that great sibling relationships are not necessarily the norm.

5 tips for helping siblings get along {via www.walkinginhighcotton.net}

Now, there’s no guarantee that this will continue, but here’s a couple things I think are working for us right now.

5 tips for helping siblings get along {via Walking in High Cotton}

1. Let them PLAY together. Completely unstructured. No board games or sports where all the rules and roles are set. I mean, shoo them out of the house and let them play together, alone and unrestricted. Not forced to take turns or share. Not directed by an adult…just turn them loose and let them work it out between themselves and their imagination.

This is how our kids spend 75% of their time and it’s a world where they have to figure out how to get along or they don’t have any fun.

5 tips for helping siblings get along {via www.walkinginhighcotton.net}

2. Let them EACH lead. Some of us are natural leaders and some are natural followers. We use opportunities like chores for each child to learn leadership. Sometimes we make the older ones follow directions from the younger ones. If Speedracer is an “expert” on feeding the dog, then anyone helping him follows his directions. It builds confidence and teaches them to respect each other.

This also means that sometimes the leader gets stuck with extra work. I think this is an important lesson. As I mentioned last week about chores–we try not to interfere in them working out a job until they’re done. Leaders need to take responsibility for getting the job done, including encouraging and motivating others to help or doing it themselves when push comes to shove. And teammates need to take responsibility for long-term consequences like not getting help next time they ask. We help them debrief as a group after the assignment is done.

5 tips for helping siblings get along {via www.walkinginhighcotton.net}

3. Let them ASK each other. This goes hand-in-hand with #2. Let them interact directly–not through momma and daddy. If the Ladybug needs help with the chicken house, I’ll tell her to ask the Cowboy for help. This usually involves a lot of swallowing pride–but it also teaches them to interact politely and respectfully with each other, solve their own problems, and work together. And when they don’t get along in such cases, we’ll sit down with each party separately and talk about attitudes, tone of voice, and having either humility or a servant’s heart.

We always try to address heart/attitude problems privately with each child–I learned this the hard way when I heard one of our munchkins using my corrective words against their sibling in an argument. It’s one thing for them to correct each other about calling names–it’s another thing to correct each other about having an unhelpful spirit or poor witness for Christ. I think this is age-dependent, but it’s certainly applicable for us right now.

5 tips for helping siblings get along {via www.walkinginhighcotton.net}

4. Let them FORGIVE each other. So often, our kids come to us first to solve every problem. I’ve had to learn (and Mr. Fix-It is a big help to me here!) to give them some thoughts on how to handle it and step back and let them do it. When someone gets in trouble, we may discipline or correct, but we also require them to go back and make it right directly with their sibling. Apologizing to momma or daddy can never be a substitute for apologizing or asking forgiveness of each other.

This also involves a lot of pride swallowing! But the lesson in humility is invaluable. It also teaches the sibling on the other side to be graceful and forgiving.

5 tips for helping siblings get along {via www.walkinginhighcotton.net}

5. Let them have TIME together. This one is last, but should really be first. You have to put sibling time–family time–first and foremost in your days. They have to have time to play together. Time to work together. Time to lead and help each other. Time to work out their problems, talk to each other, offend and forgive each other…you can’t let time with friends trump time with family. You can not let time for personal interests trump time for family interests. All these outside influences must be balanced against time with family.

5 tips for helping siblings get along {via www.walkinginhighcotton.net}

So far we think it’s going pretty well. If you’re looking for something a little more specific and concrete, there’s a great little book calls Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends, that gave me some specific pointers. I know several families that have the kids read the book together regularly. I’m also a fan of the American Girl book Oh, Brother…Oh, Sister and I’ve heard this Sibling one is good too, but haven’t read it.

Do you have any sibling tips to share?

The Chicken Chick
By the way, did you see that Thursday’s post 6 Tips for Raising Hard Workers was featured over at the Clever Chicks blog hop? Yeah!! That’s one of my favorite weekly homesteading blog hops–be sure to pop over!

See where I’m sharing this week….

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5 Tips for Helping Siblings Get Along — 7 Comments

  1. We are working on this with the girls – but some days I feel like I’m more referee than momma. High on my list is to get them to try to work things out without screaming, crying or running to us.

    • Well, we’re going through a (hopefully short!) phase where they don’t run to us, they just fight it out. :/ That’s not necessarily the answer either. Work it out–yes. Fight it out–no. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. I have a tip that involves parents and children. When I was in elementary school, my mom used to ask me to spy on my older brother and sister and then come back and tell her what they were doing (ie: cleaning vs not cleaning their rooms, etc.) It took me years to get rid of being a tattle-tail! But only after having folks point it out to me. I still have expectations for instant correction when folks do things they aren’t supposed to because of my tattling as a child bringing about instant correction of bad behavior. NEVER pit your kids against each other this way…purposely or inadvertently. It’s not fair to anyone involved.

    • We try to tell the kids all the time that we don’t “tattle” just to get someone in trouble. We tell if someone is breaking a safety rule. But tattling is another perfect way to redirect them back to interacting together. I say, “Did you ask her to stop?” or “Did you tell him not to do that?”

      The tattling can make me crazy. You can tell just by their tone of voice when they come to you if it’s tattling or not.

  3. I would love to hear more about #2. That sounds like a great idea, but I have no concept of what that would actually look like in everyday life.

    I also am wondering what you do if they go ask their siblings for help, and the siblings refuse. (Mine generally do; that’s why I end up having to instruct them to help each other.)

    • For us #2 plays out in chores and farm work. We try to empower everyone to be the “expert” at their job. So, for example, our Cowboy’s job was to water the animals for several years. That meant he was the “expert” at moving and reconnecting hoses, resetting all the valves on the splitter, when and how to scrub out the buckets, etc. So if I send the Ladybug out to help, she needs to listen to him and help with what he says–not just the part she wants to help with. HE gets to tell her when the bucket is clean enough, where to move the hose, which one should be filled first, etc. The Ladybug has the same authority when Speedracer helps her with the layer-house and I give Speedracer the same authority over ME when I’m helping him water and feed the meat chickens. They usually start out as little tyrants and we have to help sand off their rough edges! ๐Ÿ™‚ But it helps everyone to learn how to be respectful and clear when giving direction and how to be graceful and diligent when taking directions.

      I think the key with making them interact directly is to always be listening so you know what’s going on, and can give good direction, but not get in the middle of it. I’m always out there listening to their interaction, even if I’m not getting into it. If the sibling refuses a couple things usually happens. 1. They come tattle. Then I ask if they asked nicely and they usually didn’t, so I suggest they try again. If a sibling refuses a polite and humble request, I’ll call the refuser in for a discussion and suggest the requester ask the other sibling. 2. They decide they don’t want any help anyway. I stay out of it. 3. They definitely need help and can’t get it and I’ll pull the refuser aside to tell them I’m disappointed in their unhelpful/un-diligent/disrespectful attitude and they need to help because I said so, and then AFTER the job is done we’ll have a real heart-to-heart. Refusing to help “just because” usually gets an extra consequence around here because we value teamwork and having a servant’s heart so much. Another key is not getting frustrated and taking the easy road–you have to grit your teeth and allow a certain amount of “bickering” for them to work it out (not screaming or name calling or anything!). Again, my husband is very good about helping ME take a deep breath and stay out of it. And praising/rewarding GOOD attitudes and GOOD helpers goes a long way too!

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