When my wife and I were raising 3 children at home, we emphasized the necessity for the boys to be good brothers and our daughter to be a good sister. We told them that we are a team and what each of us does either helps or hurts the family. That may sound like a heavy burden for a little kid. However, in our case, the results were that each child felt more valued and responsible for the family.
This does not mean that they didn’t fight like cats and dogs from time to time, especially the younger 2 that were so close in age. However, the right to oppose was limited to them. If any outside individuals caused grief or trouble, the others were quick to rally. As a matter of fact, my boys took that VERY seriously. No one was allowed to hurt family…especially their sister.
One Saturday, I was at the kitchen sink that had a window looking outside. My oldest boy was at a friend’s house, but the younger 2 were playing in front of our house. They were approximately 7 and 8, my boy being the older of the 2. The rule was that they had to stay on our street which had very little traffic and we knew the neighbors. Two houses down from us, there was a 12-year-old boy. He was a little jerk. Well, on this day he had made my little girl cry by making a rude comment to her. He said, “I can see your panties”, as she rode by on her bike. Our son came into the house and went to his room. He sad nothing, but emerged with his pellet gun. He stepped outside, took, aim, and pop. He then walked in, saying nothing and went to his room.
He had been responsible and taught safety when it came to the pellet gun. I knew this to be true. However, I stepped outside and looked for what he shot at. I saw and heard nothing. I just saw my daughter riding her bike with a smile on her face. I walked back inside, put my dishes away and walked to my son’s room to inquire about what happened. When I reached his door, there was a knock at my front door. So I went to the front door to find the man who’s 12-year-old lives 2 doors down. He wanted to inform me that my boy had shot his boy with his pellet gun. I immediately went into investigative mode and retrieved my children. I learned what the neighbor boy had said to my daughter, and that my son, therefore, decided to shoot him in his panties. Thank goodness that the father was more embarrassed about his son’s behavior than he was mad about him having a stung pee-pee (my daughter’s words….lol).
So how could I ever take this event and turn it into a constructive lesson that does not advocate violence? Good brothers and sisters protect each other however they can. They do for each other. This could be babysitting, fixing a sandwich, or even something as simple as listening. Obviously, appropriate boundaries and lessons need to be taught. That particular day earned my boy some restrictions when it came to the use of his pellet gun. However, I did let him know that I loved the fact that he loved his sister, and would do anything for her.
As kids grow older, we as parents want them to maintain a close bond. Sometimes that is the case, but many times they drift apart and are not what we might call “The Waltons”. However, there are things that we can do to maximize their interaction to encourage a growing bond. One thing we can do is to eat together as a family. We can mandate that we as family support and attend each other’s extracurricular activities whenever it is possible. Game night or activities that involves shutting off electronic devices encourage interaction. Going to church as a family does likewise. The key is to encourage interaction and not isolation. Unfortunately, today’s technology can monopolize our attention and time.
Sometimes, establishing rules can be met with resistance. Let me encourage you to be consistent. Start as early as possible. The more interaction is a way of life, the deeper the roots of relationship will grow and serve them later in life. The later you begin this process the greater the obstacles will be.
Finally, we must acknowledge that the age gap between the siblings will determine a lot of their interaction. However, regardless of age, each child should feel their responsibility and ownership in the family. Older or younger, they all need to feel loved and important. This is a task that you will try to tackle all of your life. It never stops. Invest in them as individuals and as a group. Reinforce how they are needed…for the family…and for their siblings. Teach them to be the best brother/sister possible.