5 ways we foster sibling relationships

Our kids have a pretty tight bond, thus far in life. Maybe it's because they're born within four years of each other, or because they share a bedroom and almost all of their time, space, and possessions with one another. But I hope we've done a few things to foster their relationship as well.

Here are a few things we've learned from other parents, or developed ourselves in this parenting journey, to foster sibling relationships. I'd love to hear things you've done as well!
  1. Your sibling is your best friend. Period. This is a mantra of sorts, and we say it to them all.the.time. It's a joyous statement when things are going well, it's a correction when someone has been unkind, it's an encouragement when they're struggling to treat each other well. Say something enough and they'll believe it, so they say.

  2. Making sure they get a lot of time together. This became especially important when Lily started school last year and they weren't together all day every day anymore. It's easy to pack your kid's schedules with birthday parties and activities but we are really intentional in keeping it light and open. We say no to a lot of things so the three of them can be together more. They probably won't remember the names of half the kids they went to kindergarten with, but their siblings will be there for the long haul, so that's the relationship we want to focus on.

  3. Plant the idea of service and giving in their hearts towards their siblings. Kids are naturally selfish (like all of us!) and probably won't think of these things on their own, so give them the ideas. If I'm doing groceries with Oli, for example, I might ask him, "hey what's a food that Lily especially loves? Why don't you go pick it out and we'll surprise her with it". Or before they start their nightly show, I'll whisper in Lily's ear, "wouldn't it be nice to let Oli pick the show tonight, even though it's your turn? That would be so loving and special!". They usually get really excited about it once you get them going.

  4. Zero tolerance policy for meanness. I had friends growing up who were completely awful to their siblings, and somehow it was just accepted by their parents and never punished. And we've all seen the movies where the big brother is a total bully to his younger brother, and there seems to be no one really caring or putting a stop to it. Our kids get immediate time outs if they say a mean comment to their siblings, hurt them in some way, or are acting unkind toward one another. These things do happen! It's easy to catch since they're together so often, so we try to nip it in the bud early on.

  5. Target the heart, not behaviour. It's easy to just say, "no hitting!" and punish it in such a way that they no longer hit. But has their heart towards their sibling changed? Instead of focusing on the outward behaviour, we try to focus on the character and the heart that is wayward. Hitting a sibling is wrong, but the root issue is anger, jealousy, selfishness, or a plethora of other sins. We try to target the root issue instead of the outward behaviour, and point them back to the God who rescues us from our sinful selves, by sending Jesus in our place. We don't want them to view their siblings as a reason that they got punished, either, so disciplining them this way helps in that respect because it ends with grace and reconciliation, not shame and punishment. 


Limiting your screen time when you're with your kids

I didn't have a smart phone until my third pregnancy, so I only spent one season of sleepless newborn nights with one. And I don't know how I did it for the first two without one! It was amazing to have blogs, news, and information to read during the endless feeds in the middle of the night. The bright screen of Instagram helped me wake up when I'd only had 4 hours of sleep (or less). I have way more memories saved and captured of Chloe's life than my first two kids, which is very unlikely for the third and last child, and all thanks to my iPhone. So hear me: I love my iPhone. I love taking family selfies. I love technology. I'm incredibly thankful for the Internet. Particularly for mothers, I feel like smart phones are an enormous blessing. But like all good things, it can become an ultimate thing and then we're in trouble.

Tim Keller, in his excellent book Counterfeit Gods, says “An idolatrous attachment can lead you to break any promise, rationalize any indiscretion, or betray any other allegiance, in order to hold on to it. It may drive you to violate all good and proper boundaries. To practice idolatry is to be a slave.” 

I'm sometimes a slave to my iPhone. I've been late because of it. I've become distracted and forgotten important things. I've broken promises. I've seen actually important things as tedious and annoying because of the distraction of my screen.  And all the while, my kids are there. Like all kids these days, they know how smart phones work and they see me on mine.

My friend Lydia set a brilliant goal for herself, and I'm thinking of taking it on for myself (albeit tweaked ever so, since my littles never nap and stay awake for 13-14 straight hours these days). In her own words:

I decided to try something from the month of August to detach from my phone. I won't be checking social media or texts from the hours of 11am-7pm (except if our daughter is napping). Basically, she's starting to notice things, and I don't want her to constantly see me with a phone attached to me. I'll answer phone calls though, and will respond to texts when I get to them in the morning or evening.

They also have a box at their front door for guests to put their phones in as they enter their home, to encourage actual conversation and fellowship. So smart!

Another thing that helps me is that I don't have a data plan, so if I'm out of the house for a significant amount of time each day (always the hope!), I have no option to be connected. I always have my phone in case I need to be reached by Brad or to take pictures, but I'm not engaging in social media or staring at my screen. 

How do you limit your screen time when you're with your kids?


Parc Baldwin

We live really close to Parc Laurier, so that's usually where you'll find us. But every once in a while, we explore our neighbourhood parks and find new favourites. Recently, we were in the South East of our hood, Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, and ended up at Parc Baldwin. What a beautiful place!

Parc Baldwin has a fountain, a splash pad, extensive playgrounds for both ages 0-6 and 6-12, soccer fields, tons of green space, and public bathrooms. It's a bit far for us to go on foot, but we could ride our bikes there.

We feel so fortunate to live in such a green city, where we get the best of both worlds. Montreal has so much green space and is very thoughtfully planned to include massive parks in every neighbourhood. Parc Baldwin is a new favourite, for sure!


urban explorer!

When you live in the city, you need to get creative if you want to foster exploring and adventuring in your little ones. But it's actually not that hard at all! Just give them a bit more freedom in your walk to the store, or be open to taking the alley or the ramp or the back stairs instead of the typical way.

Our kids have no back yard and very little living space, but they are such adventurers and explorers! They're parkour masters and our neighbourhood is their playing field.

The road less traveled is so good for them, and they can journey down it in the city just as easily as in the wilderness.