How do you get your kids to be friends 20 years from now?
Isn’t that the million dollar question that most inquiring mama minds wanna know?
So… how DO we accomplish getting our kids to not only love but to actually LIKE one another?
You know you can figure this out. After all, you’re sort of a natural at this motherhood thing.
Okay, it may not have totally looked that way at the beginning with “breastfeeding gate” and all but now things have mostly fallen into place.
You have the basic mama recipe down – you’re intuitive, loving and supportive.
You don’t play favorites.
Each of your kids gets PLENTY of attention from you.
And yet they seem to show their worst side to the one other person you love just as much as you love each of them…their sibling.
When you see or hear your kids fighting and behaving jerky towards each other, your blood begins to boil.
It can be hard to think straight during those moments.
You ask yourself if it’s something you’re doing wrong?
What gives regarding the constant competition between your kids for even more of your attention?
When all you really want is for them to be besties, play together and give you a thirty minute reprieve from being Julie the cruise director?
Remember how your mom used to lock the front door, kicking you and your brother outside with strict instructions not to return until dinner time?
Or what about dropping you off at the local pool and simply stating, “Stick together”.
Pick up would happen 7 hours later as you struggled to open the car door with your pruney fingertips.
As present and engaged hands on mamas, have we accidentally attempted to fix a recipe that wasn’t broken?
Or is the sibling bond breakdown an unwelcome byproduct of being such good modern day parents?
The sibling bond can be one of the richest and most special relationships you have in your lifetime – you literally share experiences, genes and history that can’t be recreated with anyone else.
After all, childhood is when your subconscious, your brain’s future operating system, is programmed and it is the most impactful stage of development for humans.
Childhood can literally set the tone for the rest of your life.
And only a brother or a sister can fully relate to what it was actually like growing up in YOUR family.
Those of us with close sibling bonds know what a big deal it is and we want THAT for our kids too.
Those of us that did not have it – either because of an age gap or being an only child, felt left out.
We envied other families with built in playmates.
The houses where life seemed like a never-ending game of hide and go seek.
We want THAT for our kids.
Like those drug commercials with the unfortunate side effects including abdominal bloating, severe seizures, explosive diarrhea and suicidal thoughts…
Could an accidental side effect of your hands on and super attentive parenting be a competitive and disconnected relationship between your kids?
My Cory loves listening to the side effects on those drug commercials. He won’t let me fast forward until we’ve heard something referring to diarrhea.
Frankly, they do remind me of old SNL skits – where you weren’t sure whether it was a real or fake advertisement until halfway through it.
As usual, I digress…squirrel.
Back to the sibling stuff.
Here are some steps to strengthen the relationship between your kids:
1. Awareness. Admit that your kids aren’t as close as you’d hoped. Awareness is the first and biggest step to changing a problem.
2. Stop being such a “good” mom and kick it old school. I once heard Dr. Shefali, one of my conscious parenting teachers, say, “Love them a little less.” My interpretation of that comment is to bring a little retro back into motherhood. Moms are the nucleus of the family and kids want to be with the mama more than anyone else. Making ourselves a little less available will allow the sibling bond to grow stronger.
3. Let them figure it out when possible and ignore the small stuff rather than blowing it out of proportion. As soon as mom gets involved it becomes about “getting in trouble” and this can drive the wedge further between them.
4. Pick your battles in terms of intervening and reserve your mama mediation techniques for only the biggies. I teach some great sibling resolution strategies for those times when you have to pull out the big guns.
Here’s how you can start taking baby action steps to help your kids become lifelong friends:
What equates in this day and age to locking the front door until dinner?
Hire a sweet 12 or 13-year old neighbor as a mommy’s helper to play with the kids outside on some afternoons and/or weekends
Assign kid chores and responsibilities to be accomplished together like yard work, playroom organization and after dinner kitchen cleaning duty
When your oldest begins driving, establish the expectation that as a member of your family team. he will be shuttling younger siblings to and fro activities