My sister just celebrated her 45th birthday and right after wishing her a happy birthday, I sent a text to my mom thanking her for one of the sweetest gifts she ever gave me… a sister, and two brothers for that matter. My sister was my first best friend and always will be! As our relationship has grown and matured through the years, we are the first to know each other’s news, to hear each other’s deepest secrets, and love completely in the best and worst of times.
Knowing how much my siblings mean to me makes me realize how important my children’s relationships with each other will always be. I know how important it is to help them build strong and lasting bonds. I have watched beautiful friendships bloom and blossom with our three oldest daughters. If I asked them who their best friends in the whole world are, I promise they would say each other! They have built this bond through the years by putting each other first, sharing same experiences, and sharing the love and security of a family. They set a beautiful example of love for our younger children as they build bonds too.
Just like the CEO leading a big corporation, moms set the tone for her home and family life. A positive outlook and joyful spirit go a long way in bringing a family to one accord. This time of year can be quite daunting with so many to do lists and activities on the calendar.
With seven littles, similar scenarios are often in need of management and empowerment. Once love tanks are full, everyone rested, and full bellies, nothing empowers a child more than responsibility. Raising a big family requires predictable procedures and lots of hands on deck. Empowering our children to want to help is key for success or failure.
Ways to Build the Sibling Bond
Chore Teams: When I taught school we had a Chore Chart and every student shared ownership in the responsibilities. As a mom I’ve tried the Chore Chart route, stickers for jobs done, as well as nagging for a job to get done. Those things went by the wayside because I owned the process (not my children). Empowering our children means giving them ownership of the responsibility. It means giving guidance while lowering our expectations. In our home we have our children watch, walk along side helping, work alone with us there for support, and then jobs can be done alone. One way to build the bond is pairing children to work on jobs like emptying the dishwasher, laundry, trash, beds, dusting, vacuuming together as a team. Start with one job and see how it goes, then add another. Who knows, maybe we will work ourselves right out of a job! 🙂
Meals: Children are pretty handy in the kitchen if given a chance. I know it can take twice as long to make muffins with help, but one day it will their sole responsibility. If we continually keep saying no, they will stop asking. Guess what that gets us the next time we ask for help? A No. Turn that no into a yes and up your chances for a yes when you need their help. The more we allow them to do along side us, the more they will be willing to try on their own.
Playtime: One of my favorite things to say around our house is, “Go find something to do.” And I’ll admit I sometimes feel guilty for sending them off on their own but I am with them 24/7 and we do homeschool with plenty of fun activities so go kids… find something fun on your own. And you know what? I am continually surprised at the creative things they make or pretend if just given the chance and time. There is nothing better for our kids than uninterrupted playtime with the freedom to choose what that looks like. Yes, we watch shows and play screens just like every other family but with moderation giving their creative side a chance to grow!
Sparkle Jar: We have an old fish tank and the flat marbles that go in the bottom. I turned both into a way of encouraging team work and sibling bonds in our family. We were seeing a little too much competition and selfishness with allowances so we brought up the idea of a Sparkle Jar. Instead of them earning money to buy themselves something else they really didn’t need, what if we earned sparkles (flat marbles) every time we caught them helping a sibling, doing a chore without being asked, being kind, and a million other things we want to see more of in our family. Really the sky is the limit. The greatest part being, they are working together to fill the jar for a privilege we earn as a family. Our first jar earned a trip to the zoo and we just filled it again so we going to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. We have even found them giving each other sparkles when they felt it was deserved. I don’t think there is a better litmus test for sibling bonds than them finding the good in each other and wanting to do it more.
Other Ideas: Sharing rooms, space, and toys. Big kids helping little kids with personal care or reading stories. Family meeting and devotions together so children have time to converse about issues, problems, and their favorite thing about their day. All things we love doing as a family!
What Building Bonds Does for a Family
Sanity: Having help with chores, meals, and playtime sure frees a family for more time together as well as rest time for mom!
Simplicity: There is just less to be done when more are helping creating a more simplified lifestyle.
Sanctuary: When our homes are less cluttered and everyone is on the same page, a sweet peace will falls over the space.
Making it Work for Your Family
Predictable Routine: Our family is home most of the time so keeping a predictable routine is easy for us. If we are gone for the day or just don’t get to a particular thing, we don’t sweat it. Just pick up the next day or skip it until next week. It won’t be the end of the world!
Being Willing to Help: There are some jobs that need a helping hand and most of the time that being the little girls’ room after playtime. They really know how to have fun but don’t enjoy the cleanup. I have been known to say… “Oh you made that mess so you can clean it up.” What do you think that gets me? A big fat bad attitude and doesn’t build bonds at all! How to empower a little one? Ask if they need help. My answer will always be a resounding YES and ensures the job gets done quicker, better, and happier. In the midst of all this helping is a model of serving each other. Something we all could improve on.
Having a Servant’s Heart: I have found when I serve, it fosters service in them. Giving myself away is absolutely the opposite of what culture would have us be doing but it IS the example of Jesus. We often ask each other~ “Are you being Jesus?”. It starts with me and what I live in front of them is what I will reap back.
“Building Bonds” is a big idea for kids and I don’t even use this terminology in front of them – but the life we live gives them a safe place to practice, learn, and make mistakes together. My prayer is one day they will be responsible adults out in the world because they felt important, chosen, and helpful at home. I also hope their deepest relationships outside their spouse and own children, will be their siblings just like their big sisters. Kids aren’t little for long and I know that full well watching my adult girls successfully living their lives. Let’s build bonds together because the reward is beautiful!
The days are long but the years are short. ~ Gretchen Rubin