Replacing Sibling Rivalry with Unity


Teach siblings to be friends.

Let’s talk sibling rivalry unity.

Sibling rivalry is commonly known as competition, jealousy, and fighting between brothers and sisters. It starts early in childhood and, frustratingly, often carries into adulthood. Many mothers spend countless years and many tears combating, correcting, and catering to it.

Supposedly, sibling rivalry is a thing, and it’s always been a thing, and it will always be a thing. But I say — too bad, sibling rivalry! I am prayerfully determined that you will not be a thing in my house and with my kids. As a matter of fact, I am pretty much telling you to move over, sibling rivalry. Here is my new thing: sibling unity.

I have two siblings. I am the infamous middle child. I pretty much fit the bill of the typical middle child when it comes to how I deal with my siblings. I don’t care to fight. I mind my own business for the most part. I see the strengths in both my sister and my brother, and I celebrate them. I am happily introverted among them. I am like this in part because it’s my natural bent, but also because our mother was fervent that we loved each other when we were little. Whenever we argued and disagreed, she would always say, “Your brother and sister will be your best friends.” Like most middle children, I took her words to heart. What is truly worth breaking bonds?

Now that I am a mother, fostering sibling unity among my own kids is truly my thing. My boys are a little over a year apart. Their cute little pictures with matching outfits and arms gleefully placed around each other’s shoulders are gradually being replaced with chest bumps, chin ups, and new triumphant voyages of self-expression and personal autonomy. It’s exciting to watch them fill out their personalities and come into their own interests. With it also comes a subtle search for significance and — let’s be real — showing out.

Sibling rivalry is real.Replacing sibling rivalry with sibling unity must be intentional; otherwise, when sibling rivalry creeps up, we will meet it with irritation. No mother I know wants to listen to her children bicker and banter. I concur wholeheartedly. Watching and listening to our children show out to one another — shouting, snapping, and snatching — is first simply annoying because, quite frankly, ain’t nobody got time to listen to all that after a long day of work. Second, seriously, it is hurtful. Yes, I am sensitive and think quite naively that they should know better.

Wait! I wave my hands in a panic. Why are you talking to each other like that?! My eyes bulge in shock and surprise. I was so confident their shared bloodline would unite them stronger than the Spartans. Hello??!! Didn’t you read the words on the wall of my womb when you were in there? It said, “Love. one. another.” In other words, chill out! Share! Be nice!

I don’t have all of the answers, but I have a goal. Sibling unity. I am consciously monitoring this goal of relational harmony as they grow up. I think more about my childhood with my own siblings, and I carefully consider some of the dynamics. As tough as it is, I try to listen to my children’s conversations with one another with awakened ears. Are they really competing, or do they just need to be individually affirmed? Are they really jealous, or do they just need to learn how to be okay with being different from one another?

kids ice creamFighting is impermissible, so how can we teach them to use their words clearly to communicate their boundaries, likes, and dislikes? I know their relationship is important, so I take time to help them learn how to invest in it. We model how to encourage each other and how to celebrate one another in the little things.

“Hey, your brother made a great shot last game! What do you think about that?”

“Let’s go to the store to get your brother a birthday present.”

We serve each other.

“Looks like your brother left his water bottle in the car; can you grab it for him?”

And so on, and so on. I am committed to exemplifying patience with them when they have no patience with each other. After all, they will be best friends!

How do you foster sibling unity?


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