If there's one thing I'm constantly mindful of when raising three kids, it's that they have a good relationship as siblings. It's a struggle to do that, to be frank, since I have all boys and they tend to fight all the time. No exaggeration -- put them all in a room together and it immediately turns into something reminiscent of 'Lord of the Flies.' Still, I've discovered several techniques that will hopefully encourage a lifelong friendship over time.
For starters, I constantly remind them of the importance of family. Friends come and go, but family is here to stay, even if they don't particularly like each other at a given moment. Family bonds can't be undone no matter how much they bicker, and their relationship as siblings will persist well into their adult lives, I tell them.
Plus, I actively discourage bullying (name calling is never allowed) and emphasize they should stick up for each other. I also try to dissuade competitiveness. If, for instance, one gets a new toy, they all do. Sure, that gets expensive sometimes, but otherwise, I'll have a bitter tug of war and tons of resentment on my hands.
When one of my kids does something nice by, say, willingly sharing a favorite toy, I make a big deal out of it, thereby underscoring the importance of kind gestures. Constructively playing together is a bonding experience too, provided they stop hitting each other with plastic baseball bats long enough to do so.
I also regularly inform my children they have a responsibility toward each other. The actions of my older kids, for example, have a direct impact on what the younger ones will do. Occasionally this strategy puts an end to bad behavior; other times not so much. But it always makes them stop and think about their siblings.
Above all, I teach my children to respect each other's feelings and openly communicate with one another. I've resigned myself to allowing them to argue since it seems pretty unavoidable. But if they do squabble, I try to let them resolve the conflict peacefully on their own. If that doesn't work, a shared activity -- getting ice cream, going to the movies, etc. -- can do a lot to settle differences.
With any luck, all my efforts will have the desired effect in the long run and promote a healthy, loving relationship between my three kids.
Donald S. Deane is the proud papa of three little boys who provide endless amounts of joy and sleep deprivation. He has held a variety of jobs, including college English teacher, newspaper reporter/editor, internet project manager, dishwasher and dogcatcher. Don has written for AOL TV, Moviefone, TheFW, ScreenCrush, GuySpeed, and Arcade Sushi, among others.
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