If you have more than one child you will be familiar with the words ‘it’s my turn’, ‘he isn’t giving me’, ‘give it back’ ‘it’s mine’ or words to that effect. Yes I feel your pain sisters, it’s frustrating and honestly at times you feel more like a referee than a mother. Those loving siblings can become arched enemy’s at times and on those days I find myself stuck between whether i do the right thing or just ask the older child to give in for the sake of peace…. It’s exhausting! Alhamdulliah I don’t have those kind of days too often but I definitely have small disputes on a daily basis, there’s always a few disputes in the day that need resolving between Aliza (6) and Ismail (3) and they are usually instigated by Ismail if I am honest. For the most part they do get on, but I really want my children to have a strong bond and be really close when they grow up, so I know that I have to lay the foundation down now.
We all know that just like adults that live together children will inevitably have clashes and conflicts. Maybe it’s their age differences, different needs, sometimes they want the same thing and sometimes they want different things. Children lack the ability to problem solve in these situations, unlike adults they are not able to reason with one another and in fact some adults still struggle with this one, so can we really blame them?
I always research and ask people with older children what they did to cultivate a close bond between their children as they were raising them and to be honest I don’t think there is any quick fix solution, but nonetheless here is what I found:
1. Be fair and just in your love, time and attention.
Sometimes parents have a favourite child or a child that they will compliment, talk about more often and show more affection to, usually this might be the youngest child in the family. Give each child the same love, praise and their own one-to-one time with you, by improving your relationship with each child it will give them emotional comfort and confidence. This means it is very unlikely that your children will resent each other for feelings of jealousy, or even notice when you compliment or show affection to the other. I find it’s only when the child is feeling ignored or senses a feeling of being lesser than the other that the dreaded jealousy comes along.
2. Give each child their own personal space.
Siblings have to their share rooms, their toys, their computers, the television and most importantly their parents too. Giving children some of their own space apart from one another may help avoid many contentions between the siblings. For example, giving them places to put their own special belongings, maybe splitting the bedroom in half and giving each sibling either side of the room. Sharing a room with each other can make siblings very close with one another but it can also be difficult if they are constantly getting in each other’s way. I did this with my children’s bedroom where I painted Aliza’s side of the room yellow and Ismails blue and Alhamdulliah it worked perfectly, they both understand about each other’s side of the room and most of the time bedtimes are fuss free.
3. Help them be a team.
I really believe inculcating the feeling of being a team from a young age and over long periods of time is what will strengthen their bond with one another. When siblings have things they enjoy in common and they feel they are both on the same side they work together in such harmony. I often ask them to be my ‘helping team’ when it comes to cleaning the toys away or tidying up and honestly I am pleasantly surprised by the efficiency they collectively display. Aliza delegates tasks and does her bit too and Ismail complies and responds by shouting words like ‘done it’. He loves helping out and being commended for doing so, the proud expression on his face is priceless Alhamdulliah.
I also hope that as they grow they can do extra curricular activities that they are mutually interested in, like Thai boxing for example. Aliza has been attending thai boxing lessons for nearly 18 months now and although Ismail it too young to train at present we have boxing gloves for him too which they use for play fighting. They both love teaming up to together to beat their dad up and shouts of encouragement and squeals of laughter between them means they are working as a team and having fun with each other too. Hopefully as they grow older it will be a sport that they can enjoy and sparring together will a competitive game between them.
Insha’Allah as children grow older I think it’s important to encourage siblings to help each other with things and that definitely grows love for one another. At the moment I tell Aliza to read Surah Fatiha to Ismail and be repeats it after her, usually this will be at bedtime while I’m getting Yusuf ready for bed. When siblings help one another with their school work or in games it can really help with their bonding, it’s good for them to know they can rely on one another and they have one anothers back.
4. Create a loving atmosphere and encourage affection between siblings.
If children constantly see their parents display affection and care and are also encouraged to do so, over time this will gradually become a big part of their character. Let me give you some examples:
- If one child falls over and hurts themselves the other sibling should be encouraged to come and ask them if they are ok.
- If one child is upset or not well the other siblings should be encouraged to ask them if they are ok and show affection by giving a hug or a kiss maybe.
- If one child is leaving the house to go somewhere, the parents should encourage them to meet one another before leaving.
- If one child is taking a snack for themselves or if they are picking up a sweet from the shop they should be encouraged to also remember their siblings too.
In this way over long periods of time this will become a firm part of who they are and they will have a very close bond during their teens and insha’Allah as adults too.
5. Don’t ever compare your children to one another.
You may feel that you are motivating them by telling them that they need to be more like their sibling, but honestly it does not help, contrary to this children start to feel resentment towards the siblings who they are always compared to.
6. During conflicts teach your child to stand up for themselves.
Rather than jumping in to resolve the situation at the first sight of a problem, let them resolve the issues between themselves. Give them clear guidelines and prompt them instead of sorting it out for them. For example:
Me: What’s the matter Ismail?
Ismail: She’s not giving me space [another common one in our house, when he wants to sit where she is sitting. ]
Me: Ask Api Aliza can you give me space please,
Me: Aliza Ismail said he needs some space.
So instead of taking sides and saying that one or the other is wrong you are just stating the facts and also showing them conflict resolutions skills.
7. Visual reminders can encourage a friendly and loving bond
Having visual messages that encourage love between siblings in their room or in their living space can really help with their beliefs about strong family relationships. I really love all the brother sister decals that are sold on eBay, there’s many cute ones including ‘there no buddy like a brother’, ‘brothers are better than Superheros, and ‘being brother and sister means being there for each other’, i have the latter decal in their room. I think by seeing a visual reminder it gradually sits in the child’s mind but very passively and the more they see it the more they believe in it.
Frames and canvases with messages about family being important can also help set the ideas firmly in to their mind, the more you see certain message and ideas the more they become a permanant imprint on your mind. This is something that advertising companies do and it is proven to work, so why not use the same concept to inculcate all the important values we believe in our childs growing mind.
Its also important to remember that your language and attitude about their relationship is penultimate in making them close to one another, telling them often that they need to be there for one another and be best friends is the most powerful thing, they need to hear it from your mouth.
8. Use stories and characters to help them bond
Okay this one is really fun and I really enjoy doing this with them, I usually substitute the characters names for theirs, for example in Hansel and Gretal, I used the names Aliza and Ismail instead. While watching the childrens animation movie ‘The Incredibles’ we did the same, they have three children in it and me and my husband kept telling them the girl is Aliza and the younger 2 boys are Ismail and Yusuf. We do the same with the cartoon ‘PJ Masks’ too… they love it! It’s a nice way for them to see characters getting on and to see themselves in them, usually in these cartoon the characters get on really well and there is no sign of any bickering, so they can be good examples of cooperative behaviour. So there’s another funny way to gradually help them grow in love, this will be one to laugh about with them when they grow up.
I hope you found these things useful, I am sure you will agree that in cultivating a loving relationship between siblings the parents do play a massive role and Insha’Allah if the seed is planted in the early years it hopefully will upon reaching maturity grow into a strong tree that won’t falter at the smallest of things. As a mother its so important for me to know that they will be there for one another when I am no longer around, siblings can be such a big support for each other in hard times and a great joy in happy times. Sadly you see that where many other relationships are given so much importance this one isn’t. I truly believe that this beautiful relationship of sisters and brothers that starts with sharing of the same womb is no less stronger than any other. It starts with a beautiful childhood together, a support, a friendship. I believe that no matter what happens you always feel a sense of comfort with your siblings, a feeling of being at home and no matter what they will always be there for you.
I pray that our children are able to be a source of peace, contentment and support in each other’s lives. I pray that when they grow up and go their separate ways, just meeting one another will bring their childhood home alive again, the home their parents had once so tirelessly made. I guess this is the dua and plea of every mother and father ‘stay together, stay together’.