One thing that is extremely important in our home is cultivating friendships between our children. Life can be so much more enjoyable if your very best friends are the people you live with all the time! Yes, our children have arguments. Sometimes they even turn in to full – blown fights. They are also the very best of friends. The little girls adore their big sister (and their brothers!) and the boys are best buddies, as well. There are a few things we do to try to encourage friendship in our home.
1. Limit age – segregated activities in favor of family – oriented activities. This is rather unheard of in today’s culture. We have participated in a number of age oriented things where the kids all get split up into different area. No matter what you tell them about it or how you try to get them to relate to the idea of different classes, levels very quickly are viewed by children as rankings. The older children begin to consider themselves at a higher level and dislike participating with the level under them because they haven’t quite attained what they have. We have just found that a lot of segregation encourages dissention in our home, not unity. This is one of the many things I love about homeschooling. Yes, our children are all in different grades, but there isn’t that division between grade levels.
We love to do things together that we can enjoy as a family. Playing games together can really encourage team spirit if you cultivate it that way. Having activities that the children anticipate together is also a good way to encourage unity.
2. Make unkind speech and name-calling totally off limits.
3. Discourage tattling. This is a really hard one for me to know how to deal with. The older children are good about helping me keep an eye on the younger ones and sometimes I do need to be alerted to what is going on that I need to check on. What are the motives of the child telling you what is going on? Does this child have a reputation for enjoying getting others in trouble? How did they approach you about the issue – in front of the whole family or when they could tell you without the audience of the other children?
4. Use the buddy system. I do this a lot, beginning just for my own sanity. LOL! Now I do it just as much for the friendship it encourages! Start by putting the older ones with the younger ones. Even Essie absolutely adores Lydia because Lydia is good about helping her out when she needs something. Have the older children read out loud to the younger ones, letting the younger children chose their favorite book.
Sometimes if I see two children who seem to be having difficulties in getting along, I will give them a special project to work on together. Working together for a unified purpose seems to always be a good thing for them!
5. Get them excited about doing kind things for each other. Our children love preparing for each other’s birthdays. Some of them would rather spend their own money on each other than on themselves. Encourage joyfulness and excitement in giving and planning for each other!
I would love to hear some other ideas about how you discourage sibling rivalry and encourage good family relationships!