Building Strong Sibling Relationships: 4 Moms of Many

moms of many manageThis week the 4 Moms of many,  are talking about sibling relationships, or how we deal with sharing, bullying and arguing among our children.

I want to be honest about this topic because I think that many parents don’t know how beautiful sibling relationships can be.

Much like the teen years, many parents have wrong assumptions about sibling relationships. They think that fighting, name calling and ‘bullying’ are a normal part of the brother/sister relationship. We have found this assumption to be false.

Don’t misunderstand, our children aren’t perfect. They sometimes argue and/or respond to each other impatiently or unkindly, but other than a short learning stage during the toddler years (when it seems that there is constant fighting) our children’s relationships are generally characterized by love, kindness and self-sacrifice.

Sadie (8) helps Isabella (1) ride her bike


Isabella (1) and Sadie (8)

Sibling relationships need not be characterized by sin anymore than the  marriage relationship shouldbe characterized by sin. All relationships will be affected by sin, but by God’s grace and mercy we can have relationships that are characterized by the fruit of the Spirit.

Here is how we deal with arguing and fighting.

Here are some ways to cultivate beautiful relationships among your children.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Pray that God will bless your children’s relationships

Ultimately God is the only one who can change your children’s sinful, selfish nature and give them hearts that long to please Him and serve others.

Kaitlin (14) and Amber (15): Sisters and best friends

Give them an example of godly relationship.

I hate to say this one because I fail multiple times each and every day and the primary sins that I see in our children’s relationships are sins that I regularly model for them. Our children’s relationships are certainly not a result of my godly example, but rather of God’s grace. That said, striving to put before them a godly example is vital.

Give them time together.

Relationships develop when people spend time together. If your children spend most of their time with a peer group, the peer relationships are what they will value, almost always to the detriment of sibling relationships. (I suspect this is because because most peer groups aren’t composed of friends who encourage children to godliness.)

Our family has observed a striking contrast between sibling relationships in friend’s children who spend many hours a day with peer groups and sibling relationships in friends children who spend most of their time with siblings and parents.

If your children spend most of their time alone, they will value being alone and choosing what they want to do, when they want to do it.  It’s difficult to learn to serve or to sacrifice self, if we spend much of our childhood serving self.

In order to develop strong relationships siblings must spend time together and must be involved in each others lives.

Amber (15), Matthew (12) and Kaitlin (14) play football with Dad at the park

Don’t give them too much space.

If you followed the above link to my post on solving sibling squabbles, you will see that we have given our children a specific method, based on Matthew 18,  for solving conflicts. This biblical pattern works beautifully, if it’s followed.

As sinners it’s our children’s nature NOT to handle a conflict biblically and so until they consistently and reliably follow the pattern given in Matthew 18 they need supervision. And until BOTH parties are willing and able to solve the conflict at step #1, they need a parent available for step #2 and/or #3.

I often think of Ephesians 6:4, when it comes to sibling relationships.

Amber (15) Isabella (1) and Nicholas (3)

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

If adults need the Matthew 18 pattern to solve conflicts (and they do), shame on parents who tell their children that they need to work things out on their own. God knows adults aren’t able to solve all problems without outside help, we should not expect it of our children.

That said, as our children mature, they rarely need to come to us and are able to solve most conflicts with simply the first step of Matthew 18.

Make relationship a priority.

Please do not underestimate the importance of relationships! When Adam sinned the consequence was a breaking of the relationship between God and man and the purpose of Christ’s life, death and resurrection was to restore that relationship.

I believe that Satan rejoices when he sees the constant name calling, bickering and fighting within the families of those who claim the name of Christ. Our calling as parents isn’t to take the easy way out and the godly discipleship of children and building of strong, godly family relationships is not easy.

Here are a few simple ways that our family makes relationships a priority:

  • Nothing is more important than teaching our children to have a relationship with God.
  • We spend time together as a family. (Lots of time, everyday) My series on capturing your child’s heart
  • We homeschool with a focus on relationships. (6 ways our homeschool is different than most)
  • We consider relationship in the ‘little’ decisions. ( Who sits by whom in the van, room sharing, homeschool curricula, family activities, individual activities, daily schedules, etc.)
  • We strive to be given to hospitality. Hospitality does not require a large budget or endless resources, but hospitality always requires a little bit of self-sacrifice and self-sacrifice is always beneficial to building relationships.
  • We carefully consider the friendships that we encourage both in our children and as a family.

Do not be misled, “Bad company corrupts good character.” ~1 Cor. 15:33

Our family with a family we’ve been friends with since we began having babies. We love their godly encouragement and companionship.

  • We view our primary parenting responsibility to be to teach our children God’s mighty works and His law.

How do you manage sibling relationships in your home?

You may also be interested in Bossy Older Siblings: Part 1 and Part 2

Be sure to visit the other 4 Moms to read what they have to say about sibling relationships:

KimC at Life in a Shoe
Connie at Smockity Frocks
Headmistress at The Common Room


For more Moms of Many posts visit the 4 Moms page.

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16 Responses to Building Strong Sibling Relationships: 4 Moms of Many
  1. Cari Wiebe
    February 16, 2012 | 9:18 am

    We have found that since we started homeschooling 1 year ago our children argue a lot less and enjoy each others company.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    I do think that homeschooling makes sibling relationships easier.


  2. Blair @ The Straightened Path
    February 16, 2012 | 9:37 am

    When I was pregnant with my second child I never could have imagined the joy that would come with watching my children love one another.


  3. Andrea
    February 16, 2012 | 11:41 am

    I only have 3 little ones and we are going through the toddler/preschool phase were there is quite a bit of fighting, but then I absolutely love when all of a sudden the fighting stops (only usually last a few minutes) and my kids are hugging and playing so nice with each other. I’m praying that as the grow older the fighting gets less and less and the hugging gets more and more!


  4. Jennifer
    February 16, 2012 | 11:48 am

    What a blessing to read this today. My children both woke up in very bad moods this morning and were squabbling nonstop during breakfast. I seriously thought about walking out the door! I think it may be due to sleep. While my children go to bed at 8:30 every night, it seems that the older they get they are having trouble falling asleep. They are 7 and 10. Children are like adults, lack of sleep leads to moodiness. At least in my experience. God Bless your beautiful family.


  5. Kati
    February 16, 2012 | 12:27 pm

    I agree that spending time with peers can corrupt character a lot easier than spending time with family. But what would you say to the parents who were blessed with only one child? That is what I wonder for my child. How can we give him opportunities to learn love in relationships when he spends so much time alone, or just with his parents.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Kati, this is a good question and obviously one that we haven’t personally faced. That said, I don’t see anywhere in Scripture that requires peer relationships for children. It seems to us that peer relationships have been emphasized way too much in our current society.

    If we had an only child, we would make an effort to build relationships with other families with children. I think the key is family relationships. Our children have many, many friends, but they almost always see their friends in the context of family through hospitality or church functions.


  6. Lois
    February 16, 2012 | 2:14 pm

    In your quest to build strong sibling relationships, I am wondering if or how you prepare your kids for the day when their siblings will leave, marry, and start their own separate families.

    I ask this because I married into a large homeschooling family and have found that they have not been able to “let go.” I was looked at as someone who ruined the family unit. During our second married Christmas, one of the siblings even asked if me & the other in-law had to be there, because it wasn’t “just like old times” then.

    I want our children to be best friends and each other’s greatest allies, but I am not sure how to teach them to be able to let go at the same time. “Be close! But remember, someday your brother will be married and his wife will come before you!” lol Do you have any advice?


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Lois.

    Another good question. I think your statement at the end is what we need to teach our children.

    Be close! But remember, someday your brother will be married and his wife will come before you!

    Of course this is biblical, a man is to leave his father and mother (and by extension his siblings) and cleave to his wife. I think that keeping this in mind as we raise our children is important.

    When Mark and I married, my father told me that I was welcome home anytime, as long as Mark came with me. 🙂


  7. Beverly
    February 16, 2012 | 4:52 pm

    You’ve definitely given me something to think about. I have 3 kids – ages 8 (boy), 13(girl), and 15(boy). Both boys get along wonderfully w/their sister, but with each other – not so much. They treat each other worse than anyone else. I’ve been racking my brain to figure out ways to solve this issue and help them salvage what they can from their childhood years! It makes me so sad. We do homeschool, so that definitely helps. On my way now to check out your other links! 🙂


  8. Lucinda
    February 17, 2012 | 9:00 am

    thank you so much for the very timely post! My husband and I were just talking about bickering and such in our house so this is much appreciated and needed 🙂 I agree with what you say about spending time with peers completely and would love to have your insight/opinion on something…we have 8 kids; six boys two girls. On almost any given day there are at least 2 neighbors here but up to 6. they stay from the time my kids are allowed to go out to “play” until…well until I have to ask them to go home. Most nights someone stays for dinner. My husband spends almost all evening outside with “all” of them playing ball games or tag or whatever to keep them busy and “supervised”. Heres the question, how do i limit this when i know they’re coming from broken homes and we are a model of what God wants a family to look like. (not to say were perfect) or should i not limit it? my daughters (11 and 12) have a couple of times mentioned not inviting certain ones over because they have realized that they do bicker more when they are around these certain neighbors. My husband encouraged them to work on their own attitudes and not just avoid the nighbors, because we are supposed to be a light. And while i agree, now i’m feeling torn…did we give them wrong advice? I’d appreciate any thoughts.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    I would have a very difficult time telling you to limit that time. I think that God gives every family a different mission at different times and this may be yours for this time.

    In our experience, we had to forbid one neighbor child from coming into our yard. We had asked that he ask permission before coming into our yard to play with our children and he refused. If Mark or I aksed him to do something (or not do something) he would stomp his feet and scream at us. He called our children names and physically threatened our younger children when they got in his way (when he was in our yard). It was just not a situation that we could deal with.

    At our last home, we had a similar experience to what you have now. One little girl practically lived at our home. It was harder with our children, but Mark was the only regular male figure she had in her life.

    All of that to say, that you and your husband should follow what you believe God is calling you to, while keeping in mind the cautions of Scripture about companions and the commands of Scripture about being salt and light to our lost world.


  9. Crystal
    February 17, 2012 | 11:43 am

    Thanks so much for this. We have 4 children, ages 4,3,15 months, and 2 months. DH and I are both only children and we are struggling with building their relationships, the older two seem to fight quite a bit.


  10. Rachel
    February 27, 2012 | 6:34 pm

    Thank you for this, I’m going to read the preschool article next. My kids are just turned 4 and 2 have just begun bickering and fighting over toys, my prayer for them is that they will grow up to have a wonderful relationship, and I know it can be done. I just need to learn how to nip the bickering in the bud now. I love knowing that I don’t have to accept that this is just how it will be.


  11. Renee
    March 7, 2012 | 3:08 pm

    Love this post 🙂 living in a small house, we share lots of togetherness and the girls share their room. but being together sometime bring conflict, but saying sorry and mean it goes a long way 🙂


  12. TMS
    November 2, 2012 | 1:22 am

    Thank you for being so transparent and honest. I have 3 children and am expecting #4. I would love to homeschool, but my husband thinks that public school is great. You see he was valedictorian of his high school and feels as though he received a great education. I am still praying. He does graciously let me school during the summer. Trust me, I cannot trust what the schools are teaching. I have noticed how my children get along better. I do want to implement Matt.18 to teach them the right way to deal with conflict. I will ask the LORD for grace and mercy in this area. I need help in this area too.

    The public school system is horrible. I am pulling my son out tomorrow because they are going on a field trip to the museum (to waste time in my opinion) and go to the mall. They claim it is to work on math by calculating the sales. However, this is one of the worse malls in our city. They have horrid billboards and there is a strong homosexual presence. The school called me to find out why he wasn’t going and I told them why. This is the second time this week I have had to pull him out because of exposure to things my child does not need to be exposed too!


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