Your children are on the same team. Teach them to act like good teammates. And more, teach them to be teammates who actually like each other.
Their relationships with each other will outlast you. The bonds they forge now will be one of the key ways your legacy is transmitted.
Long after you are gone, will these bonds remain with their own strength and purpose, or will they unravel without your presence?
How do you forge long-lasting bonds? Here are five ways to make sure your children like each other after they leave the house.
Do not let them disparage each other
Any insults should be met with swift discipline. Putting down a brother or sister should not be tolerated under any circumstances.
This seems obvious but it can be easy to ignore if the aroma of your house is already negative. What’s one more unkind word among many?
When something good happens to one of them, it should be treated as if it is good for the whole family. “Rejoice when others rejoice” should be one of your anthems and guiding principles.
When a member of the team wins, the whole team wins.
This can be a problem with boys, in particular. Brotherly strife has been a problem since Cain and Abel, so be sure and sniff out any envy and kill it.
Model this for them. Celebrate accomplishments at the dinner table. If there is a consequent reward, like ice cream, let the other siblings partake and enjoy as well.
Do not make comparisons. Do not say that one should be like the other. “Why don’t you eat all of your vegetables, like Bobby?”
This will drive them to differentiate themselves more in the opposite direction, in possibly destructive ways, just so they maintain their own identity. And it gives them permission to resent their sibling.
Instead, praise what is good. The others will catch on.
Gratitude is the opposite of envy. It is the surest way to kill it. Someone bursting with gratitude has no room for envy. Train them to count their blessings.
Ask them what they are most thankful for.
Ask them what they are most thankful for about their brother or sister.
Don’t let them off the hook.
Create a shared culture
The easiest way to do this is to have daily habits and rituals. Dinner every night at the same table. Boardgame night every Monday.
It is important to share time together and create collective memories. This is one of the biggest reasons to read to your children every night, no matter how young or old they are.
It is one of the best ways to create shared memories and inside jokes.
You can also make your household productive. If important work is getting done, then the team will have to come together or things will fail. Siblings that have helped build their own inheritance together will have a greater stake in its future.
Don’t rush in to settle arguments and fights. As long as they are not hurting each other, and as long as they are not being mean or disparaging, let them work out issues themselves.
You know your own limits and your own children, so measure this with wisdom. But in my own experience, letting them sit with the tension is a good way to build up their resilience for each other. Learn to roll with the punches while being playful.
A child should not be rewarded for being easily upset or for being the first to run to a parent.