Do your kids get along? I say this as my three are gathered around the laptop working on a Power Point presentation for the oldest son's English class. The middle is performing the technical support and they are all contributing, laughing and looking at old pictures and videos to contribute to this "About Me" project. (As they are giggling, middle says to oldest "how about "taunting your siblings" for one of the slides?" There goes my post.)
It is not always like this, but I captured a moment where things are working. There are many days where there is yelling, and crying. We have been fortunate enough to not have a lot of hitting and physical altercations, but we have had a healthy share of conflict.
A friend shared an article on Facebook the other day about spankings. She and I had a conversation about it; neither of us have ever spanked our kids, nor have most of the people I know. I was wondering if one of the reasons that my kids use verbal attacks on each other rather than their fists is because resolving conflict via physical means is just something that they haven't witnessed.
I think about when my kids were younger, or the many families that I work with who have preschool and elementary school aged kids and how much more fighting there is amongst the siblings. These younger kids are all less mature both within themselves and in their relationships. The self-centered nature that is age appropriate of younger kids and the inability to have empathy or take on the perspective of others is the great contributor to the grabbing of toys, hitting and occasional biting that happens in preschool classrooms or basement play rooms.
As our kids get older and master higher levels of development, they are learning about empathy and compassion. They can see that a lonely child at school or someone that may have been bullied is feeling sad. The hope is that we have taught them to reach out to their sad peer and offer some support or a smile. Can they be empathetic with their siblings? We certainly hope so and offer many opportunities on a daily basis to exercise that muscle.
Sibling love is often evident when the kids join forces to gang up against their parents. Teenagers are quick to bond together over insulting their parents' anxieties, insecurities or fashion choices. As long as it is in good fun, sometimes it can be a nice bonding moment for the kids, and in my house, it can be quite comical. It can, though, cross a line and then feelings get hurt. Parents have feelings too and should never be emotionally beat up at the expense of their kids "joking".
Teenage siblings, despite competition and battling over the bathroom, can be friends. I know a family where the two boys who are 22 months apart would run around the playground often having fun, but sometimes about to pummel one another. They are now 18 and 16 and the closest of friends. They share a lot of the same interests which has enabled them to have many mutual friends, shared socializing and a wonderful and close brotherly relationship.
Sadly, that is not always the case. I worked with a family where the girls were two grades apart. The older one, a senior in high school, felt like her younger sister was the 'favored' child because she was a good student, a good athlete and that 'perfect' kid.
Her sister, a sophomore in high school, felt that her parents favored her sister because her sister was having trouble socially and would stay home and spend time with their parents. She envied the time they all spent together while she was out socializing with her friends. The girls had a bitter rivalry and the parents were at a loss as to how to properly parent them. Over time, in family therapy, the family was able to identify and work on each girls' specific needs trying to build a more amicable relationship between the sisters.
Whether your kids are younger, older, fighting or playing, siblings are siblings. It is a unique relationship and one to be cherished. If you feel that your kids are unable to call a truce every once in a while for some heartfelt giggles or you are truly concerned about the level of competition or animosity between your them, give me a call, I'd be happy to hear you out.