I’m sure you would agree that you want your kids always to be the best of friends. In fact many parents who have more than one child say that this is one of the main reasons why they decided to grow their family – so that their children will be there for one another. As a parent, when you grow your family you envision your children taking care each other, even when they are young and in school and hope that they continue to do so as they grow older. Being helpful is not enough, you’d also want them to support each other and this is particularly important as they grow older and differences in their personality appear. Choices they make might may differ but supporting those are very important aspects of your children being friends for life.
Of course this may not be the easiest and sometimes in some families you may wonder if this may ever be the case. The stark reality also is that siblings grow older, start their own families and lead their own lives. As a parent this would certainly not be what you envisage when you decide to have more than one child.
In addition to all these, differences in age, sex and personalities may make you wonder how you can bridge the gap and make them best friends forever. Nevertheless, this is what you want as a parent and your parenting style will have a big impact on how friendly they are and if they’d remain friendly as they grow-up. Of course you can’t expect them not have their tiffs as they are growing older but for the most part, you’d want to make sure that they remain best friends forever.
Here are some things you can include in your parenting style that can help make your children be bffs and remain being bffs forever:
- Start with a bit of brainwashing – Always encourage your children to call each other best friends. Reserve that title for each other, so as they grow up, they will turn to each other to uphold their titles. This may seem like a small step, but does work wonders.
- Do not only designate your elder child to take care and watch out for the younger siblings – make sure that all your children know that it’s up to each other to take of each other. When you award the right to take care of younger siblings or for the elder siblings to always be in charge, you may cause feelings of resentment and can possible make the elder siblings constantly bossy. As such, as children get older they find themselves getting annoyed and trying to cut ties with old habits and wanting to break free of being constantly bossed around.
- Always treat children fairly and discipline them alike – Treating children fairly is a very important aspect of making sure that they be and remain best friends. If you were to treat one better than the other even in the tiniest way, they may hold feelings of resentment not only with you but also with their siblings. In whatever you do make sure that they are constantly given the same things and treated alike. This matters when disciplining too. Whatever rules you have need to be for every child in the family. As much as possible try not to bend rules based on age and sex. If this does occur your children may feel that they haven’t been treated fairly.
- Never compare your children – Your children are different individuals. What they can do, like and what they achieve will be different. Never even for once compare. Once you do start comparing, one child could possibly feel that the other is a favourite or the other is better and that you as parents love one more than the other. So don’t cross that line, ever.
- Make sure your children do not become violent with each other – Rough and tough play is always likely to happen. They will fall on each other, squash each other, run into each other and of course just be kids. Nevertheless, make absolutely sure that they are not allowed to physically hurt each other when there are disagreements or arguments.
- Enforce a ‘be nice policy’ – we need to teach our children to be nice to one another. This of course starts at home but certainly should not end there. I find nowadays it’s not just adults but children who are not nice to each other. Enforcing this quality in this particular instance will help them understand that being nice to one another is the norm not the exception.
- Encourage them to play together –Encourage your children to play together even when you’ve scheduled in a play date where one child’s friends are over. Never exclude a sibling while one child’s friends are over. This causes them to find differences and make them move in different circles.
- Encourage team work– Let them work together. Team work can be encouraged by letting them do chores together or by letting them do activities that include them to work as a team. In this way, they come to appreciate each other and their contribution towards a final goal.
- Give them an hour or two a day away from each other – Constantly being around each other will take a toll on children no matter what their age. Children need their own space too and that time and space must be respected. If you continue to keep your children together every minute of the day, they will get on each other’s nerves. So find activities, even if they are at home activities that they can do without being constantly near each other. You can designate one to draw while another reads in a different room or assign them chores that they can do separately
- How you talk to and about your siblings matter – Yes lead by example! If you are having a very friendly relationship with your siblings, almost half your work is already done. However if you are having a less than perfect relationship with your siblings try to minimise your child’s exposure to those situations. Do not let them hear you saying anything negative about them. There will of course come a time when you will not be able to hide from your children the nature of your relationship with your siblings. When they are old enough to understand, talk to them about it. Do not keep them in the dark and let them know why you wish for a better relationship for your kids.
- Have realistic expectations – It is unrealistic to expect your children to always be friendly and never fight. They will. They will have their differences in opinions. But teaching them how to manage these and understand these situations are very important.
- Role-play positive responses to conflict. – You must teach your children positive ways to behave during a conflict so that they will be able to resolve the situation soon and not cause any further damage. Make them understand that each of them have different opinions and needs and that these will at times cause arguments. Teach them to accept what each other wants. Teach all your children not to respond immediately during a possible tantrum or meltdown. Teach them that when feelings run high, unnecessary words are said and it’s best to cool down and then sort out things. Teach them to calmly communicate their individual needs and point of view to their sibling. This is best taught and practiced in neutral role-playing situations rather than in the heat of a fight.
- Think twice before intervening during a conflict – from as early as possible; teach your children to resolve conflict by themselves. Do not intervene unless it is absolutely necessary and do not act as a mediator every time. Intervene only when necessary and be fair when you do so. They should be able to understand two things: first that it is absolutely necessary that they resolve and make up whatever differences that they have and second that they must understand and acknowledge each other’s differences.
Children will be children and they will have their differences. Even when your kids are the best of friends, you will find them arguing a million times. What is important though is that you teach your kids and enforce that they need to be there for each other and whatever conflicts and differences of opinions they may have, that it is important they work through these issues. Teach them that all relationships need to be worked on and they are most likely to not give up on other relationships as well. Practice this parenting style and your pay-off will be big!