“I wish I didn't have brothers.”
That's how the morning started with my beautiful daughter. We have mornings that start with screams five days a week.
This particular morning was awful, because of my youngest, the trouble starter.
He decided he wanted more food, but didn't like the food on his plate–he ran out of grapes. They're a hot commadity here.
Glancing over at his lovely sister's plate, he sees what he's looking for.
He creeped over to her plate and grabbed two of her grapes and ran away as fast as his little legs would take him.
We all scream.
There's pushing and knocking over chairs and the morning is a rush of anger and frustration.
No one wants to start their day like this.
I just want peace in my house, and people who enjoy being around each other. I want my children to love each other and have a lifelong friendship.
This is important to every family, but as a military family I feel the pressure to encourage friendship.
The one constant in their lives is each other.
There will be friends that will come and go, maintaining friendships from states away is a hefty task and most friendships won't last.
When they come home they'll always have me and their built in best friend siblings.
Through all of our moves I have found a few ways to cultivate that friendship among siblings. Here are my best tips.
1. Encourage Family Talk
At the end of the day we always talk about our favorite thing about the day, and I interject a little family bonding during that time.
We talk about any specials we did during the day, and I like to throw in little things I noticed that showed someone's love for another.
If Josie helped Joshua go down the slide or learn to write his name, we talk about that.
Recently, my daughter struggled with her fear of heights, we praised her accomplishments that night together.
She was so proud of herself for climbing those ropes to get to the top of the playground.
It was scary, but she did it!
My son loves talking about how awesome his sister is for accomplishing things. “You did it Josie-beautiful!” he exclaims.
Of course, bedtime isn't the only time to show how much we love one another. Another way we encourage family talk is when we're shopping, or out and about.
If we see something, like a truck, we always bring up how another sibling would love it.
Relationships aren't always talking about loving each other, and trucks though. In every relationship especially when you live together there will be conflict, or just all together bad days.
2. It's Okay to Not Like Each Other Some Days
It's human nature.
We want to encourage our children to still be good people on those bad days, but giving them grace on their bad days can help with their relationships. If they believe you can ONLY show love and NEVER be unhappy with someone, it will breed a lot of resentment later on.
Encouraging empathy and understanding of bad days or bad moods can only help them. You want your children to know how to argue or disagree and still remain friendly.
Label those feelings for your child so they can understand it's not who they are, but their feelings and emotions driving their behavior.
Maybe they're feeling a little lonely because they miss Daddy while he is at work, and instead of realizing it's loneliness, they're presenting as angry. Name that emotion for them, and try to talk through it, and give them tools to work through it themselves.
Maybe they can write a letter to Daddy for when he gets home, or they can have alone time in the kitchen coloring. Find what they need in those emotions.
Allow them to cultivate a loving relationship by giving them space —They don't have to play together all day every day.
Sometimes just playing in the same room is enough.
One child playing with blocks on the floor while another does word searches at the table is playing “together” in a child's mind. It's still building a relationship and bonding.
Allow them to be their own person when they want or need to be, and they'll grow to love each other and their differences.
3. People Are Always More Important Than Things
Then in stomps his little monster brother with his destructing hands, and drooly mouth. You can see the anger boiling in Joshua. His face turns red and he begins anxiously grabbing every toy he can around him as fast as he can. You can SEE the panic taking over his little body.
What else is there to do but scream, slap and kick your brother who stole your favorite toy?
Without the tools to deal with this situation, they'll revert to their caveman tendencies.
Can you hear it while you're reading this? *grunt* ME WANT TOY! *slap* I cringe thinking about it.
The older children know to get a toy back from their younger sibling, but in the moment they may need guidance to do the right there.
In our house to get a toy back, they need to trade. It's as simple as offer him a different toy he might like more and get your toy back. He took your PJ Mask toy, so you go and get him a handful of blocks to play with.
If that doesn't work, come tell mommy.
Sometimes I need to remind myself how little they are. I would love to say my children are so good at using their tools that they don't even need me to help. That's really asking a lot though.
These are big emotions they're working though.
There are times they need help to wade through those issues better.
Ideally, everyone plays with everything — but favorite toys happen — and often younger siblings use favorite toys as a weapon to get more attention from mommy.
4. Comfort the Hurt First
When Josie hits Joshua and you go to Josie to talk about her feelings and why she hit, that shows her that hitting will get her attention.
Instead, go to Joshua and scoop him up in your arms and ask him if he's okay. Address his hurt and his pain, and hear his side of the story.
We often send the other to their bed for a minute to cool off, so they can come tell me their side of the story calmly.
Talking through the problem and labeling the feelings with the hurt child will often correct it. Things like “Are you upset? Oh, I see, you're upset that Joshua took the toy away from you? Did you take the toy away, and that made them mad?”
Usually we have to cycle through a few different reasons why they're upset before we find the right one.
This step can be a whole new post, so I don't want to talk too much about it here, but it's important to label their feelings so they can learn to label them too.
Later on, they'll be able to tell you “I'm mad that Joshua took my toy, and I need your help” because they have that tool now thanks to your parenting.
5. Empathy, Empathy, Empathy.
The important thing to remember and to show your children is conflict doesn't end relationships.
You can disagree with someone every day, and still love them. Bonus points if you can see their side.
Try to find a way to show your children how to see their sibling's side.
Family talk is a great way to do this, and independent time also. When driving to gymnastics class last week, Josie told me in the car she wishes her brother was here so she could show him this new book they had in the waiting room.
Some days we are going to wish we didn't have siblings, and that's okay. Build up your children's friendships with each other so they can get through those feelings.
As you can see, relationship management with children is mostly conflict resolution, and teaching them to get there on their own.
Did you find these tips helpful?
Comment below and tell me how YOU deal with conflict with your children.