Opinion Saturday

As promised, this weekend I have a fun give-away in conjunction with my Opinion Saturday question. The person who gives the best answer to my question will get the illustrious Golden Keyboard Award, as usual. In addition, one random commenter will win a free 6-month Netflix membership.

This membership will allow the winning US reader — sorry, international readers 🙁 — to check out three movies at a time and have access to the movies on demand/Internet video service Netflix just launched for 6 months. The winner will need to supply Netflix with their full name and snail mail address. The code will be sent by mail, and your name and address won’t be used for any other purpose.

I subscribed to Netflix a few months ago and just love the convenience, AND the fact that we don’t have to go to the video store and walk past all the disgusting-looking video covers when trying to find a decent movie. Netflix also has a nice recommendation system that makes it easy to find movies similar to ones you’ve already enjoyed.

Now for the today’s question. How do you encourage siblings to also be friends? All kids fight sometimes, but how do you maximize that bond between brothers and sisters? I’d love to get some tips for children of various ages.

You have until Monday evening to respond with your best advice. I’ll post the winner on Tuesday morning. Come on, hit me with your best advice!

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  1. As one of seven children, I can tell you that it’s pretty hard to be friends with someone who is getting on your nerves. So, the best thing my parents did to help me and my siblings be friends was to teach us to respect each others needs.

    In our house, we had what was known as the “Please Stop” rule. If one kid was doing something that really bugged another kid, the kid who was being annoyed simply had to say “please stop ____”, and the other kid was expected to either stop doing whatever it was, or go do it someplace else. This simple rule averted a ton of fights.

    Another thing my parents did was give their kids opportunities to interact without them in the picture. They expected us to be able to play together and work out problems without their help. I spent a lot of summer days at the park with my sisters but without my parents. That time spent riding bikes together and playing around allowed us to build a relationship that wasn’t dependent on our relationships with our parents.

    Those things really helped me become friends with my siblings who were close to me in age. As I was one of the oldest kids, one of the things that helped me become friends with the kids who were significantly younger was the way my parents stepped back and let me do the little things for them. For instance, when we were getting ready to go somewhere, my mom would get the baby ready and ask me to make sure the toddler had her shoes and coat on. Tying shoelaces and zipping a coat for a toddler isn’t a huge imposition on a preteen or teen, but it helped me feel responsible, and gave my little siblings a chance to look up to me. I also got to do the fun things, such as reading stories to my younger siblings, or helping them decorate the house for Christmas.

    So I guess my main advice would be to teach your kids to be considerate of one another, lay down some basic rules about how they should treat each other, give them chances to interact with each other in meaningful ways, and then resist the urge to intervene.

  2. Well, I only have four but they really are the best of friends. The first one leaves for college in a few months and the other three are already shedding crocodile tears just thinking about it.

    I agree with Erin on teaching them to be considerate of one another. We often quote the Golden Rule (Luke 6:31) to remind one another of that. Ephesians 4:29 is another verse we live by. It is not uncommon to hear someone say “that wasn’t very edifying!”.

    Another big thing I have tried to instill in my kids is that friends will come and go but your siblings are the ones who will be with your for life. We have moved five times in almost twenty years of marriage so they have seen that played out.

    Even as the kids get older we tend to not let the kids go out with friends a ton, family is more important. All our welcome at our house if they want to hang out, that way everyone can be involved. My oldest’s friends have often remarked to him how “cool” his little brother, or sisters, are in comparison to thiers. I think that is a pretty cool testimony right there, even teens can see it.

  3. Ugh! I hate it when I don’t proofread before hitting submit. Please overlook the spelling/grammar errors. 🙂

  4. Well, I don’t have much new but I’m commenting because I MUST HAVE THE NETFLIX.

    I agree with family time having top priority, and talking to the kids about how their friendships with each other are for life. Also, they see in MY life that my closest friends are family (my Mom, Grandma, cousin and Sisters in Law).

    Another thing I would add–Katie is getting to the age (11) where the girls she knows are starting to play those games girls play–“You’re my best friend. Now you’re not” and being really spiteful to each other. At times when one of them has been really rude to her, after I’ve listened and talked with her a little, I’ll say, “You know what? I’m so glad that you have a best friend who would never treat you that way, and who will always be your best friend no matter what. Do you know who I’m talking about?”


    “Well, yes, Jesus is always there for you. But you also have a girl best friend who will always be here.”

    “Libby.” (her sister)


  5. Oh bummer…. I’m lucky to have one kiddo– siblings, that’s just a dream. 😉

    Seriously though, I wanna do that– we’re talking it over… everyone I know who has it, loves it!!!

  6. I have 3 children and they are 16 (son), 7(daughter), and 5(daughter). As you can see there is a big age difference between the first two and not much age difference between my daughters.

    We were kind of concerned about how the oldest would handle two small girls. One thing we try to do is make sure our son’s things are respected by the girls and vice versa.

    We have tried not to make a big deal about the age gap. Something I recommend is make a habit of saying I love you and they will make it a habit to say it to each other.

    Also, let the oldest show the youngest something new. I like to see my son explaining something to my daughters and they think he is wonderful.

    I think if you stay aware and know when your kids need some space, then being together makes it sweeter! They will come away from alone time ready to have wonderful fun with each other.

  7. I just wanted to say thanks for the idea of netflix – I HATE taking my kiddos into the video store seeing 75% of the covers – great reason to seriously look into netflix.


  8. We have, like the first commenter, a couple of policies or mantras that our family follows:
    1. We give our best to our families, our best behavior, our best treats, the best of everything goes to one another.
    2. I don’t tolerate pesky behavior or bossy behavior.
    3. If they are not giving their best words, attitudes etc. to one another, and/or if one is being pesky or bossy, it is obvious that we are done playing together and it is time for chores. One or both children gets plugged into whatever chore is handy. “Stop bossing me, or you’ll get chores,” was overheard coming from the playroom the other day. The bossing stopped.
    4. Any gloating of any sort “Mine is bigger” or “Ha ha you have to do chores” immediately initiates a reversal of fortunes. “Oh, yours is bigger? Time to share then.” or “Fine, you can do his chores. Thanks for offering.”

    I always reiterate to the child-of-the-moment that I don’t allow bossiness, peskiness, or gloating because they are not nice behaviors and will make it hard for them to gain true friends; because I love them I want to teach them the
    ‘nice ways’. This puts it back into the perspective that I really am looking out for them, not just sticking up for the other one.

    Our approach – so far so good. They ran off into the yard holding hands the other afternoon (ages 7 and 5).

  9. Funny you should bring this up; I was just working on a post about this earlier today.

    We have a little saying in this family:

    Hubs or I say, “I am…?”

    And the boys know to respond “…my brother’s keeper.”

    It may sound cheesy, but we say this a lot. We remind them that they hold a lot of power in their brothers lives (and sister too, but she’s little enough to miss most of the conflict)–power to encourage or hurt, power to help or hinder.

    When the going gets tough and the brothers start fighting, we talk and talk and talk about how specifically God planned for them to be brothers, and how important it is they stay on the same team.

    And you know, I can tell they’re getting it. It’s getting through.

  10. I grew up just with one sister, but we shared a room for a number of years and I think that created a bond between us during those years. Those late nights giggling and turning on our flashlights to sneak in a game of cards after bedtime was a special time. And in hindsight now, I think we should have shared a room longer. I remember how we had our twin beds across the room from eachother during the schoolyear, but got to push them together in the middle of the room during the summer and I always looked forward to that.
    That’s all I have for now, but please enter me in for the Netflix drawing. That sounds fabulous! (fingers crossed and hopes high – hehe).

  11. Great question, and wonderful comments already. I can’t add any wisdom to that which has been shared, but how about a funny?

    My home is no stranger to sibling conflict with 72 sibling relationships in our home (9 children). The children do get along most of the time, thanks to Jesus. But when the talks and the Bible verses just seem to bounce off their hardened hearts- it is time to get the string. I want to make the point that they are stuck with each other for life so they might as well learn to work and play together. When the same two children continue to have issues with each other or avoid each other day after day, I tie these children together at the wrist. It doesn’t take long for them to begin to work together. It has made some very funny memories! And the best part is that they become a heart bonded team working together to get this crazy mother of theirs to allow them to be untied. Just knowing that I will do this crazy thing makes them motivated to work things out, and I haven’t had an opportunity to tie anyone together in years. Come to think of it, perhaps my 7 and 5 year olds would benefit from this experience. Now where is that string…?

  12. here i have to quote an old movie “brothers don’t shake hands, brothers gotta hug.” We have 3 boys within 2 1/2 years, and i always tried to instill this in them. That they love each other. They might not like each other all the time, but they must love each other all the time. and treat each other with respect. and may they give hugs and not punches. I’ve tried to drill this in their heads since they we’re born, and now that they are 8, 9 and 10, i think we’ve done ok. We’ll see how those teenage years go.

  13. I try to say “Yes” to them when it’s an activity that will promote friendship. For example…my kids (ages 8, 6, 3) love having sleepovers in eachother’s rooms. It’s a pain for me, because I’m the one that has to drag out the blankets and sheets and sleeping bags, and it takes them FOREVER to fall asleep, but when I hear them giggling in their rooms and talking about fun things they want to do together this summer, it’s priceless. Or it might be to have a water fight–or dig a huge hole in our yard–or have a lemonade stand–or make a dinosaur out of paper machie, etc. Whatever it is, it usually requires some work on my part (read: huge clean up!!!) but it’s a small price to pay if it gets my kids working together, building memories, and playing well.

  14. Oh, oh…I’m excited enough about this to come out of lurkdom and tell you. I’ve actually had some friends try it out with their older children, and it works just as well with them.

    My six kiddos range in age from almost 12-2, with a newborn arriving in August. My husband’s mother instituted this with her 8 children, and shortly after both of our oldest were old enough to talk (and fight), he started it within our family.
    It seems like a simple fix, and sounds too easy to really take care of the angry hearts that follow the diverse fights within our family, but honestly, I have NEVER seen this not work.

    When our children fight, and it’s serious enough to warrant anger and/or tears, we make them sit down and say 3 nice things to each other. (Sometimes it’s 5, and rarely, we’ll ask them to say 10 nice things about each other, but that has to be pretty serious.) The “things” have to be sincere and real…not goofy, silly things, and the first few times, it takes a lot of coaching, but it works wonders. (When they are really mad at each other, we’ll get comments like “Miss M brushes her teeth good” or “Tiny does his chores good”…but they are still sincere and honest observations.

    The amazing thing about this process is that it encourages the forgiving heart, and makes the wronged focus on the good in their sibling. I’ve asked the kids the day after a “big” issue what the issue was, and neither one could remember what had happened. (That was my 9 and 11 year old…the ones I would expect to hold a grudge.)

    Like I said, I’ve had a friend try this with her teenagers, and while they thought it was “lame”, it worked even with them.

    Beyond that, I think the continual teachings of respect, love and Christlike kindness are paramount to teaching that friendship to our children. Didn’t Christ call those whom he loved his friends? We can do the same not only by loving our children but also by LIKING them and their positive behaviors as well.

  15. Great ideas here! With 7 kids, we have ou share of conflicts as well. The most challenging relationships to navigate are those with our older, adopted son. My other 6 kids have a history together. He arrived at almost 9 last year, and I can’t imagine how hard it was to be dropped into a house full of strangers and get along with all those individual personalities.

    The biggest issue in the beginning was between he and our next oldest boy. Suddenly our bio son was not the oldest boy in the house. They also have incredibly different (opposite!) personalities. Our quiet, sensitive son was suddenly a bit put out by his new gregarious, spirit filled older brother who walked into school and became Mr. Popular overnight. We had a lot of battles in those early days. But we spent a lot of time finding projects for them to do together, as well as spended good one on one time with each and talking abut the other in good terms. It took time, but now these two are inseperable. They have really learned to appreciate their differences.

    We are now having some issues with our adopted son(10) and our 7yo son. The 7 yo is ADHD, and can be a pain sometimes, as he just goes, goes goes. But he is sweet, fun, cute and has a great imagination, which we need to try and get his brother to notice. Like I mentioned earlier…I know history plays a big role. The others have had 7 years to adjust to their little brother’s energy level. I know this relationship will just take some time.

    I think I may use some of the great ideas mentioned here on these two boys!

  16. We have four kids in our house. I have really been focusing on character development in this particular area. We have implemented two ways….First, I have been taking every opportunity to spotlight good interaction and kindness between the kids. We took three days off from our regular homeschool schedule just to give the kids a chance to hang out with each other. They had been getting so testy..the time together really worked…I was able to point out several times how nice it was that they were all sharing and helping one another as they played…….I saw a positive difference in all of them
    Second, when there is a disagreement that involves any name calling or belittling or selfishness toward another, the kids have to meet with me and say three (or five) nice things about each other. Additionally, the school kids have to write their nice things down and read them to their offended sibling. This way they take time to think and the kinesthetic excercise will help internalize what they love about their sibling better…hopefully longer lasting results!! Also the offended sibling can keep their “what I like about you” papers to look at whenever they want or need a boost of confidence. Works for us right now!
    Thanks for sharing–I love to visit your site–I always leave with a calm spirit…

  17. Well, homeschooling certainly helps. I think using positive language about families is good too. When the kids were little and would bicker over a toy we would put the toy away and tell them, “any toy that would make two brothers (or whoever it was) who love each other so much fight like this, we don’t want. Brother’s are more important than this toy.” That always seemed to work.

    Now that they are a little older we talk to them about how their friends will come and go, but they will be siblings FOREVER and it’s important to have a good relationship.

    Also, giving them the opportunity to have a relationship that doesn’t include you. When I first saw this happening I wanted so badly to jump in and join the fun, but it’s important that their relationship isn’t dependant on a parent, and they can relate to one another without “help”.

    Co-sleeping/sharing a room is a great bond builder too.

  18. We’ve done a couple of things over the years.
    1. We stand them in front of the window and look outside. “The whole world out there hates us and the Lord, we don’t need to feel that way in our own home. We need to have a safe sactuary away from that kind of meaness.”
    2. When they are really fighting, we make them common friends against the same enemy, US. We make them hold hands and stare in each other’s eyes and say how much they love each other, or 5 things they like about the other person. They are both mad at us, but by the time they are done, they are giggling at the ridiculous things they had to come up with without actually saying they like the other person! “I like that you color in the lines sometimes.”

    There is a book out there that I want to get about this very topic: Making brothers and sisters best friends. http://www.visionforum.com/search/productdetail.aspx?search=Brothers+and+sisters&productid=83524

    We also tell the kids that if they can’t get along with the people they love, then they are not ready to be social with people they don’t love, so they can’t go play with friends or at the park, etc.

  19. My two girls could not be more different. And they are two years apart. And share a very small room. And wear the same sized clothes. And to make matters more interesting, they are homeschooled and therefore *trapped* together All Day Long. Along with a two year old. And I’m *trapped* with all of them. Just the thought of it sends me running for an aspirin. So as you might imagine, bickering and temper tantrums rule the day. And the kids are just as bad. 🙂 But I have a few tricks up my sleeve.

    I assign “buddies” for certain tasks. For example, the oldest girl “teaches” the middle girl a spelling lesson. The middle girl “teaches” the youngest boy how to put on his shoes, as so on. They love the responsibility, and the chance to show off all that they know. And it gives them a chance to encourage one another. Now, when the youngest boy gets older, I’ll assign myself as his “buddy”, and he can “teach” me how to clean the bathroom. I know, it’s brilliant.

  20. Well, my four children fight…sometimes often, I try my best to not get involved. Then I say the “boy, sounds like we are being selfish (or whatever) and not being kind and loving to our sisters/brothers”. If it continues, I tell them it is time to sit on the couch. I have them sit there and hold hands until they can make up and laugh. Sounds strange but they usually are laughing and apologizing within 20 seconds. Just pushes the point home that most of their fights (and ours’ as adults for that matter) are trivial and in the grand scheme of life there are much more important things to be concerned over.

    Wow, this is a day I need a dose of my own medicine!

  21. Getting the kids to tell each other to “stop that” and more importantly, getting the annoying kid to comply has certainly helped with our sanity. I’m not sure you can force friendship, so I’m content with not fighting.

  22. I think as parents it’s up to us to program our kids from an early age that they are each other’s best friends. There is such negative influence from the world that tries to tell us that brothers and sisters can’t get along, that it would be easy to start believing that. But our job as parents is to be a stronger influence than the world, so when we start young and stay consistent, we will have the best affect on our kids.

  23. Three things came to mind, when I read your question:

    When our oldest was one, hubs started medical school. He took a huge pay cut, and we moved to one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. Little money=little house. We had two bedrooms. Our second was born while we lived there. He moved into the bedroom with his sister when he was ready, and that is where the best little friendship ever began. From their first nights together they would lay in their room and talk and play (very quietly). And when Little Man got a bit older, we would sometimes even find that he had crawled out of his toddler bed and into Big Sister’s bed to sleep. It was not something we planned or even considered ideal in the beginning, but the kids sharing a bedroom was a true blessing! Now that we have four bedrooms, they still sleep in the same bedroom all the time!

    Second, I have cousins that are grown and are great friends (they are siblings). Once I was talking to my aunt and she told me that once when they were kids, they were quarreling. She had had enough. She gathered them together and said to them, “Now you need to remember that someday it’s just going to be the two of you. Your dad and I will be gone, and you’ll have to get along – just you two!” And apparently they’ve never fought since! And they’ve both told her that that little talking-to stuck with them! Really, I don’t plan on being that bold with my kids, but we do work to help them have a good relationship, understand that equal is not always the same, and see the good in one another. We try to help them understand that they get to decide whether or not they are friends.

    Third, and this is sort of an offshoot of the second thought is that we work with our kids to ask for and give forgiveness. Our pastor at our old church, who had four remarkable grown children shared this little tactic. When one child has hurt the other, he or she is expected to say, “I am sorry, will you please forgive me?” And the second is expected to say, “yes” or “I forgive you.” Sometimes it takes a bit to get the words out, but they do come. I think there is something very powerful about asking for (and giving forgiveness). It somehow heals the wounds, just like when I ask my heavenly Father to forgive me, my own wounds are healed. This is also a give and take, not just a one sided “sorry.” And truthfully, my husband and I fairly often have to display this for our children – whether we are asking each other to forgive or asking our children to forgive. Forgiving is powerful.

    So none of these things is anything we did because we are wonderful parents; rather we stumbled upon them. And we are SO thankful!

  24. Great ideas here and I don’t really have much to add. Our 3 are very close in age, and that helps–although it adds to the squabbling potential too. I think spending time together really helps. We (parents) don’t allow fighting either; we encourage them to work it out and when we need to get involved, the kids know that we won’t show favoritism. We make them apologize and forgive each other verbally also. We use verses, prayers, etc. like others have mentioned. Once we had an epidemic of tattling, and I got to the point that I consistently put the tattler in time out when s/he was in mid-sentence! It worked amazingly quickly.
    Honestly, though, I think so much of my kids’ close friendship is because we travel so much. They need to depend on each other for their entertainment. They get along really well. We’re about to leave them (:( 🙁 ) to travel and for the first time, they will be apart from each other and from us. Right now, they’re so excited to spend time with their friends! They don’t yet realize how much they’ll miss each other.


  1. […] forget to scroll down and comment on the Saturday question if you want to win 6 free months of Netflicks! And leave a comment on this post if you want to play […]

  2. […] hard for me to pick the winner of the Golden Keyboard for the best sibling advice because there was so much good advice. I’ve tried Kristine’s advice to have kids say nice things about each other, and […]

  3. […] May 26th, 2007 by Owlhaven This weekend I’m again giving out two prizes. First is the illustrious (grin) Golden Keyboard Award, given to the person with the most thoughtful answer to this week’s question. A second person, chosen randomly from the commenters, will win a 6 month Netflix membership, which will allow you to have three movies out at a time. (details here). […]

  4. […] also get to give away a 6 month membership to Netflix. I had my birthday boy pick a random number between 1 and 19 (the number of commenters) and he […]