Visit our Sibling Rivalry Help Center for more help building strong sibling relationships.
Everyone says siblings will fight no matter what you do. But GOD says you can help your kids build strong sibling relationships. Have you ever wondered how? I can’t wait to share some ideas with you, but first, let’s take a walk down memory lane.
Despite some minor, shall we say, altercations, my sister and I had a strong sibling relationship growing up.
I like to tell people that my sister chased me around with a knife if I wouldn’t do what she wanted me to do. Even as an adult, I proclaim her knife sins to the world. But it always reminds me of the bond we really had. Sure there were knife-chasing moments and plenty of fighting (just like at your home now), but most of our moments were spent laughing, playing, and doing things together.
I remember the knife days, but I mostly remember that my sister was always there for me.
We needed each other.
Mom worked a lot and life was hard for us. We relied on each other for strength, support, and comfort. As middle-aged adults, we still do. We still talk often and still rely on each other for help and support. When I think back on how we got to this place, it’s easy to see the intentional ways that mom encouraged us to have a strong sibling relationship.
Yes, she applied many of the principles that I shared earlier this week in practical ways to STOP sibling rivalry. But she also did many things to help us avoid that conflict altogether as her goal was for us to have a strong sibling relationship.
How to lay a foundation that builds strong sibling relationships
The solution to sibling rivalry ISN’T combating the fighting. Fighting is merely a symptom of a deeper problem. If the only thing we do is stop the fighting, we are only applying a band-aid. You know this is true because one minute you break up a fight and the next they are fighting about something else.
We know band-aids are a false sense of security and we all know they don’t HEAL anything. Let’s apply this truth to sibling relationships. I’m not saying we ignore the fighting. It needs to be handled. (Read 5 Ways to Stop Sibling Rivalry.) But we also have to be doing the MUCH harder work of building the right foundation.
1. Build strong sibling relationships through family unity
Everything starts with this one thing. Your family is only as strong as your ability to enjoy each other. And you know what? That doesn’t come naturally. In fact, it’s the very people you spend the most time with who are often the most difficult to enjoy. Sometimes every little flaw gets on your nerves. This is largely because we are self-focused people and figure other people owe us quiet, space, and/or whatever else we want in the moment.
So if we are going to build family unity, we have to be very intentional. In our family, we do this by having a family fun night. It’s one night that we spend together no matter what. This night of fun has helped us rebuild our family from one of life’s most destructive trials. And it helps us grow closer to one another.
This bond is something we need in order to encourage each other and support each other through daily life. But it’s also what we need to help us have the grace and mercy we need for each other when conflict arises.
2. Build strong sibling relationships through teachable moments
I probably don’t need to tell you that there will be a lot less fighting if you supervise your children closely and make sure they are engaged in meaningful activities. There’s nothing like a rainy summer day to create chaos in your home. The schedule is important and mom’s involvement matters.
But there is also that precious teachable moment to consider here. If we are active in the daily lives of our kids, it gives us the opportunity to intervene when a situation is close to becoming out-of-hand. It gives us that teachable moment to say, “Wait a minute, do you think your tone was kind? And if your tone wasn’t kind, can you see how it might lead to a physical conflict with your brother?” These opportunities are precious. Use them to point out a better way to handle the situation before it even becomes one!
I’d also consider pulling the offender aside. Embarrassment is never a good way to change the character of a child. It leads to all kinds of trouble. If at all possible, I pull the child aside and show them what I saw.
3. Build strong sibling relationships by constantly building others up
As you go about your day, constantly find ways to build up your children. AND encourage their siblings to join in. For example, you might say, “Wow Travis, the kitchen is spotless. You did an excellent job on your chore today. Didn’t he, Kelly?” But be careful not to make it a contest. Always pick something that the other person isn’t involved in. If Kelly was also cleaning the kitchen that day, this would be the WORST thing you could say. You would actually be pitting the two against each other.
Do it with physical appearance, personality, work ethic…anything you can come up with. This creates a sense of self-worth for the child being praised and also shows the others that you value that child. Just remember to praise all of your children equally. Don’t favor the one who always seems to have it together. They probably need the least amount of encouragement anyway!
Also, don’t forget to be careful with the negative things you say. The more negative correction you offer each child in front of the others, the more ammunition they have to pick on each other. Of course, you aren’t going to stop correcting your kids, just be intentional to do it privately if possible. If not, be intentional to praise MORE than you correct. That way your kids have a model of sweet things to say instead of a model of criticism to deploy against each other.
4. Build strong sibling relationships by attending sporting events and other activities to support siblings
Have you ever been at an event and watched the siblings play video games on the sidelines? Please forgive me for any potential offense, but this infuriates me. I know that events can be long and little ones might need some distracting, but most children can be involved in supporting their siblings. Save the video games for practices or another time. Get involved as a family in cheering for your child or congratulating them on the hard work they put into this activity.
This will give kids good practice saying supportive things to one another and it will give them something to talk about. If they are each living separate lives with individual interests, it becomes challenging to have meaningful conversations.
5. Build strong sibling relationships by teaching them how to be a godly sibling
Of course, we do this with God’s Word. It’s so vital that we not only teach our children what God says about a particular topic, but that we SHOW them in His Word. As they get older, we need to be helping them make decisions and judgments based on what God has to say about the situation. We should be modeling that now.
What does God’s Word say about being a sibling? Well, I asked myself that a few months ago when I thought I might tie all of my children together on a bench until they got along. (No need to call CPS; I promise I didn’t do it.) But I sure felt frustrated.
My home is just like yours. There are days when the things I am teaching play like a beautiful symphony in our hearts, and then others when you would think I had just let the kids fend for themselves from birth.
You know the day. It’s when you ask yourself if you truly are getting anything into their heads. It’s that day when you “sound like a broken record” you are certain no one has ever even listened to. As I mentioned earlier this week, siblings are going to continue to fight and squabble because this side of heaven, we will never be free of our own selfish behaviors.
All the best tricks and parenting books cannot solve this one. The only way to truly change it is to get to their hearts. And the only way to truly get to their hearts is through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
So what we need here is a collection of tools. Tools that will point kids to God’s truth about how they are supposed to view their siblings, how they are supposed to behave as a sibling, and how to handle the inevitable conflicts.
Tools for building strong sibling relationships
I am so excited to introduce you to the number one tool to help you do that—>Meet My Brother’s Keeper. It’s a 4-week in-depth Bible study on the subject of sibling relationships. We will walk through the Bible to discover God’s meaning and purpose for siblings and families. We will explore the stories of 10 different siblings from the Bible, some with beautiful stories and some with ugly ones.
The study is broken up into two levels. The Junior level is written for ages 5-8. The Youth version is written for ages 8+. (Of course, mom is always best at placing her child in the right level. Ages are just a guideline.) If you have children at both levels, the study is designed to coincide, making it easy to use as a family devotion.
Sibling Relationship Challenge
If we are going to teach our kids to love one another, we need to give them practical tools for making that happen. We can’t assume that our kids think of these things on their own, so we need to be helping them on a regular basis. This will look different for each kid, each family, and each situation. It might be mom whispering an idea in one child’s ear. It could be starting a tradition at dinner where you take turns complimenting one “person of the day” each day. (Yes, it will be shallow to start off with, but with practice, the kids will get better.)
I want to help you (ahem, and me) with this super fun Sibling Challenge Journal full of easy ways to love your siblings. Click the image below to learn more.
Share your ideas for strong sibling relationships
I pray this post has given you ideas for building a strong foundation for sibling relationships in your home. Remember to have more grace than impatience and try to understand the frustrations your kids are learning to deal with. Sibling relationships are a tough issue to battle, but it’s worth every minute!
What are your ideas for building strong sibling relationships? Share them with us by commenting below.