Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to establish a loving relationship, siblings just will not get along. However, you can expect teenagers to respond to their siblings with kindness. This is one of the hardest things to instill in teenagers—especially if they don’t have a good relationship with their younger brother or sister. Often, teenagers barely know a younger sibling exists—and if they do, they see them as pesky annoyances. How can you encourage a better relationship?
Sometimes giving a teenager a picture of what you are trying to communicate works better than simply telling them. Perhaps there is someone who is older that your teenager looks up to—whether it’s a sports figure, an older friend, or a youth group leader. Ask them how it would feel if that person suddenly launched off and called them “stupid,” or how they would feel if that person said, “You don’t know anything; you’re too young.”
Help your teenager to realize their younger siblings look up to them, just as they look up to older friends and leaders. When your teen is unkind to a younger sibling, their words have the potential of crushing their spirit. Encourage your teen in the role they play as an older and wiser brother or sister. They can fulfill that role well . . . or not. It’s their choice.
Ultimately, we all want our children to get along—with the hope that one day, as adults, they will like (or love!) each other. Though you may not see this relationship while they are under your roof, you can require behavior in the house that reflects what you are praying for. As your teenager matures into an adult, and as you patiently love them and encourage them to respond to siblings with kindness, you increase the possibility of a lifelong friendship.
Some homes have clear rules that say, “We are a family, and we will not say anything that doesn’t build one another up.” Here are a few other tips to encourage relationship between siblings:
1. Teach mutual respect. Do not allow an older teenager to insult a younger sibling. Words are powerful, and an older sibling has more influence on the younger sibling than you might realize.
2. Do not play favorites. Though one teenager might be compliant and the younger sibling the Tasmanian Devil, irreparable damage may occur if that more difficult teen knows you favor the other child over him or her. Recall how Jacob favored Joseph in the book of Genesis. The result? Eleven jealous siblings who eventually sold Joseph into Egyptian slavery!
3. Remind your older sibling of the potential they have to be a good role model for their younger brother or sister. Their words are powerful and, according to the Bible, will either breath life or death to another person (Proverbs 18:21). Encourage them to step up and be a strong influence in their sibling’s life.
I am with you in the journey, and am praying for you and your family.
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