Today, I want to tackle a question that I get asked often: how do you get your kids to like each other so much?
When I was first asked this question, I did what any parent in my position would: I hemmed, stammered, stuttered and then laughed uneasily. The more people pressed me for my “secret sauce” formula on raising civil siblings, the more uneasy I felt about offering an answer. Why? Two reasons. First, I don’t consider my teens’ relationship atypical; I honestly don’t think I’ve done anything special. Different? Yes. Special? No. Second, every family dynamic is unique.
Dual parent households differ from solo parent households. Households where grandparents are the caretakers differ from households where aunties and uncles are the primary caregiver. Different folks require different strokes; and that’s okay. HOWEVER, (you knew that was coming right?) I think as parents there are a few things we can do to help our children appreciate one another, to love each other and to celebrate each other’s differences. Here are 6 things I know can help.
For the love of stilettos, stop making your kids dress alike! Few things irritate siblings more than having to dress alike. It creates resentment and anger. Why? Because it makes them feel like a carbon copy of some one else–like they have no identify of their own. Avoid the “double mint twins” scenario like the plague. Even if your child has to wear hand me downs, find some way to make that particular outfit unique to them. A brooch, a hat, a patch, colorful tights, etc.
Comparisons kill kindness. Ever have a boss that compared you to the person that’s been around for 15 years while you’re working on year 3? Yeah, not fun. In fact, it’s kind of belittling. It’s no different for kids. Comparisons fuel division. It fosters animosity and encourages unhealthy competition. In short, it’s impossible for kids to see themselves as a team if they’re encouraged to behave like competitors.
Favoritism is a FAIL. Parents, if you pit one kid against the other find a wooden ruler and whack yourself across the hand…or the face whichever will cause you to learn this lesson faster. You CANNOT show favoritism. That can be hard to do especially when you have one child whose halo seems to shine 24/7. My daughter is a phenomenal help in the kitchen and was often there for spoon licking and other rewards for helping out. My son didn’t like to be in the kitchen until about 2 years ago but that never stopped me from calling him down to get his own cake battered spoon. It would be 2 years before he started helping out in the kitchen regularly. Of course, it’d be a long time before he told me that he felt cooking was a Mommy-daughter thing not a me and him thing. Could you imagine what would have happened if I allowed favoritism to stand in the way? It’s often the little things folks that make the most difference.
Raising civil siblings isn’t something you try, it’s something you commit to do–day after day after day. It’s certainly not the easiest path to travel but it’s definitely, the one you should. Now, about the last three things…here you go!