Siblings make childhood all the much more magical. American author, Karen White, wrote, “They say that no matter how old you become, when you are with your siblings, you revert back to childhood.” Friends may come and go, but brothers and sisters are for life.
Each other’s first friends, first playmates, and first confidantes, siblings grow up together. They see each other’s finest moments and lowest lows. They keep secrets. They communicate without speaking a single word. Whether for guidance, support, or just having someone to listen, through thick or thin, siblings have each other. From adventure to adversity, they share in both successes and setbacks. Siblings fight, forgive, and love, accompanying each other on simple journeys and complex subtleties of rivalry, loyalty, and life.
Growing Up Together
Of all the things they can play with together, it is so cool when children play with their imaginations. Some of the most delightful adventures come alive at the spontaneous intersection between curiosity and creativity. More conventionally, playing sports, games, and watching movies together—these foster some of the fondest and best core memories of our lives. If we are so lucky, brothers and sisters forge unbreakable bonds of family and companionship that can and should last a lifetime.
Revolving between times of adoration and hatred, children endure sharing everything from toys to time to attention. As inevitable conflicts face off against ever-evolving needs, the dynamics of sibling relationships are affected. A few examples…
- As toddlers learn to assert their will, they are particularly possessive of their toys. If a younger sibling picks up their toy, toddlers tend to react to this “threat” aggressively.
- With deeply engrained notions of fairness, school-age children vehemently disagree if younger or older siblings are treated differently. Unable to understand parental reasoning, misperceptions of preferential treatment can lead to undue angst.
- As teenagers develop their own identity and independence, they may resent chores, having to babysit, and even having to spend time together as a family.
Every child has their own unique temperament and personality. One might be introverted, another, extroverted. Two children may be extremely hard-headed and unapologetic. If siblings are clingy, they may resent each other for any perceived lack of attention. If parents are more available for one child, due to special needs or illness, other siblings may become bitter. Whatever the cause, whether nature or nurture, infighting is inevitable.
Enjoy this sage advice from my mother, Debra Brandzen Marek, “If one child wants a toy that another child is playing with, we only need some minor coaching and expectation setting. Tell the child who wants the toy to ask if they can play with the toy in five minutes. (Possible Encouragement Needed as toy-holding child MUST agree to share in five minutes). Upon the passing of five minutes, the toy-holding child must share the toy with the other child.”
A father’s approach to resolving disagreement sets the precedent for what should be considered appropriate. Respectful, non-aggressive methods influence like-kind responses. If fathers shout, slam doors, and yell, children are more likely to imitate these bad behaviors.
What Should Dad Do?
No matter what parents do, siblings will battle. Unless there’s a danger of physical harm, it’s typically best for dad to forego involvement. Intervention introduces the risk of additional and different complications. If we don’t allow children to solve their own problems, they may expect us to always come to the rescue, which might, in turn, escalate both the frequency and severity of transgressions. If fathers are viewed as “protecting,” one child, intervention might fan flames of resentment from another.
If children are swearing or calling names for any reason, dad can and should deliver an appropriate consequence—such as assigning them time in the “Thinking Chair.” When we break down with them afterwards, get on their level, and ask them to explain how they will respond differently in the future—should a similar situation arise.
If we do step in, it shouldn’t be to resolve problems for them, but with them. We may need to create space between combatants until things calm down to minimize the likelihood of tensions re-escalating. To improve the chances that lessons learned from sibling conflict are retained, wait until emotions have cooled to reflect on any “teachable” moments. If possible, work towards “win-win” solutions and allow siblings to each gain something of importance.
How can dad discourage sibling rivalry? Proactively schedule dates with each child, cater to them and their interests; remind them how much we care. Children treasure time with daddy, especially when it’s all about them. Show unlimited love. Make them feel safe, important, and needed. Nurture their hopes and dreams on special father-son or daddy-daughter dates.
Get Children Involved with Expectations & Consequences
Ask children for feedback to establish rules and consequences as a family. During the process, persuade family members to agree that aggressive behaviors such as cursing, name-calling, yelling, and slamming doors are undesirable and disruptive to family life. Ultimately, design a system that aligns children with accountability and encourages them to be responsible for their actions.
Infant Brothers & Sisters
Our children will wonder, “Who is this tiny new human? Why do they demand so much time from dad and mom?” Amidst excitement and joy, the undertone of jealousy is real. Well before the baby’s birth, fathers can get ahead of this by elaborating, with in-depth examples, that every infant needs help with everything. Give each born child a reputation to “look forward to” and to “live up to” by expressing complete confidence that they will be an excellent big brother or big sister for the tiny unborn baby, who will be arriving soon.
A small percentage of siblings maintain ongoing conflict so severe that it disrupts daily functioning. For extreme circumstances, consider getting help from a mental health professional.
American author, Carol Ann Albright Eastman, wrote, “Sisters and brothers are the truest, purest forms of love, family and friendship, knowing when to hold you and when to challenge you, but always being a part of you.” Blood is thicker than water. Family must stand together. Siblings are forever.
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
—1 John 4:20 NIV
Through gentle text and delightful illustrations, it offers a wonderful way to talk about all the fun things brothers can do together and the joy that awaits when they treat one another with kindness.
Whether they are older or younger, enjoy playing sports or dancing, or prefer to hang out together or need time to themselves, brothers are always a special part of your family. This sibling celebration is perfect for brothers of all ages, and for older boys and girls who are expecting a new little one.
Elmore Green starts life as an only child, as many children do. But one day everything changes. Lauren Child gets to the heart of a child’s evolving emotions about becoming a big brother or sister.
Be warned, your child may want you to read this to her at bedtime every night before the baby arrives. When they learns to open the flaps to find the baby, you might hear, “Read it again! Read it again!”
Whether they are older or younger, enjoy helping in the kitchen or the garage, live with you or live far away, sisters are always a special part of your family. This sibling celebration is perfect for sisters of all ages, and for older girls and boys who are expecting a new little one.
Reduce hostility and generate goodwill between siblings with practical tools to cope with conflict, encourage cooperation, and make it possible for children to experience the joys of their special relationship.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.