So I am worried this morning about one of my kids. They are all teenage or older and I can’t boss them around like I enjoyed doing when they were younger. What to do? Easy. Call the oldest and get him to take care of it; have him call, text, question, probe and make sure everything is ok. Yes, I did say that and I did it. And the reason why it works is because I deliberately created a relationship between them when they were younger. They were taught how to care for each other. They were taught to love each other, when they were very young.
Intentional Parenting: Deliberately building relationships.
Why not? Why not be purposeful with your kids. Don’t just react and respond to whatever they bring in. Anticipate their life needs in a month, a year, a decade. You, as a parent will not always be there. One day it will be just the brothers and sisters working together to take care of the family. And before I had kids I thought I just didn’t want the nightmare you sometimes see when mom is gone and the adult kids are feuding.
Let me start at the beginning. We wanted to have a second child soon after number one was born. But God didn’t see it that way. (See http://strive4hisbalance.blogspot.com/2012/02/my-samuel.html for the back story) So we ended up with a 5 (almost six year old) and a newborn. When I was pregnant people would sigh and say
Oh, it’s too bad they are so far apart in age. They will never be close.
Hmmmph. The way I saw it I had been praying for our family for years and had left it in God’s hands; if He had given us baby #2 five years after #1 then I guess He could help them love each other. And I was going to do my part to see to it that they would. Intentionaly.
To start, the age gap became one of the many reasons we decided to homeschool kid #1. The first few weeks of homeschooling with a five week old baby (who never ever slept) were like living through the zombie apocalypse, but we made it. Homeschooling gave us so much more time to spend together. We were able to do things like kid #1 helping to bathe his brother and feel his first teeth cutting through *ouch!*. And kid #2 got to learn how to pull up to the piano and tap the keys while #1 practiced over and over. I have a delightful video somewhere of #1 trying to eat corn on the cob with no front teeth and #2 happily gnawing away at it with all four of his teeth.
They loved each other. They were brothers.
Then three years later #3 came along. It was a whole lot harder getting two boys to accept a girl into their world, but we did it. They loved her, even if she was not named WonderWoman as #2 wanted to call her. The boys looked after her. Later on she cleaned up after them. Kid #2 came and played doll house with her, even though his house had a skate park and was owned by Anikin Skywalker. The guys baked in the heat to watch her at her horse show. She tagged along to their concerts and competitions.
And all along I would say things to them like,
“He is your brother, work it out”
“She looks up to you, don’t blow that.”
“All I want is for the three of you to come together to take good care of me when Im old: or just pay for a maid.” (haha)
I look around and I see families where the kids are cut throat about getting something more than their sibling. They keep track of everything the other siblings get. It is like there is a tally sheet of mine and yours. (And if you give each one the exact same thing that will happen anyway.) Or, God forbid, the parents instigate it by doing more for one than the other. Or parents outright belittling one sibling to another. Playing power games inside a family will tear it apart.
Please, please don’t do this.
Remember this is your FAMILY. Your tribe. Your kin. They will be there when everyone else runs. They are your blood. And when more are brought into the family either by adoption or marriage, your cup runneth over. Don’t forget: Children are your REWARD, your INHERITANCE, Your BLESSING from God Almighty.
Your family is your treasure.
Make every effort to encourage your kids to love their siblings. Be deliberate. Say things to them like:
Your brother loves you.
Your sister needs you.
Your brother thinks you are the smartest boy in the world.
Your sister wants to do everything you do.
You can help your sister better than even I can
Your brother will listen to you when he won’t listen to anyone else.
If you create an expectation of a close relationship then it will happen. If you set them up to depend on each other then they will.
Just think about this: If your children can’t love and support each other with loyalty, who can they be loyal to?
Be encouraged today to cultivate close sibling relationships in your family. Build up and expect your kids to love each other fiercely and protectively. If your family is a big, soft, safe place your children will always run home to be with each other.
(Note: This does not mean that they will not push each other down the stairs in a laundry basket when you are not home...hahahaha)