cultivating love in our kid's hearts

Happy Valentines Day weekend everyone! Easier to say since this post wasn't written on time :) I always have so many thoughts swirling in my head and ideas I'd love to write about, but alas, TIME. And ENERGY. And all the excuses. Anyway, Love.

I don't think there are any parents out there who don't want their children to love each other. To claim their sibling as their favourite and for them to continue in lifelong friendship. Beyond that I would imagine we all want that in broader relationships too. For our children to love their family, their neighbours, to act in love towards society at large. But how do we cultivate it? What can we do to encourage it? I don't have the answer. I have ideas, but no proof of them working, since my kids are still ages 4 and under. And all kids are different, so what we try on one may not work for another, or in another family, or another context. I'd love to hear your experiences and ways you're helping your littles love others (especially siblings) , so please feel free to mention them in the comments below or on instagram. For us, here are a few things we've tried and are doing:

Assuming and teaching love.
I remember the first time Brad told me he loved me. We were adults (just barely!) and it was something to proclaim once it was felt. A milestone in our relationship. Sibling love isn't that way. We have told the kids that they love each other from the first ultrasound of a sibling in utero. It's all they've been taught and they assume it. When we're disciplining one of them for hitting a sibling, for example, part of the speech given involves some sort of reminder that, "you love your brother/sister".

Siblings before friends.
This is easy when the kids are younger. Especially in a Montreal winter. We aren't prioritizing play dates and park visits because it's WAY TOO COLD, but also I like one of the results: the kids play together, almost exclusively. They are each others number one play mate, and for the most part, have learned to play well together.

But I'd like to keep this going as the kids grow. I don't think we ever had friends over on weekends or in the summers until I was in grade 3. We had cousins and the kids of our parent's friends around but mostly, my sister and I played together. Now I see parents frantically trying to coordinate play dates for their kids in kindergarten, grade 1, etc. and worrying if their children don't have lots of school friends to play with outside of school. I think I'd feel that way if I had only one child, but with siblings, I actually try to limit our social calendar so the kids time with each other.

Likewise, when we were growing up my parents never let us invite friends along to family trips or dinners out, even though many of our friend's families did that. I'm glad they did this. We were forced to get along and enjoy each others company AND WE DID. My sister and I were together very often growing up and I think that contributed to our close relationship now.

Sharing... everything.
In a perfect world, I don't think I'd have chosen a medium/small bedroom for my three children. I always imagined a boy room and a girl room, but really, the norm is every child gets their own room. I'm so grateful that circumstances forced us to have our kids all together though! They share everything as a result and I think it brings them together. We don't have a lot of space for toys so they share all of their toys except their lovies which are just theirs. We have a lot of gender neutral things to facilitate this. When something is too small for Lily or Oli they say "one day I'll share it with Chloe!" (though mostly it's Lily's clothes that get passed down there are some things like outerwear and pjs that Oli has handed down to her).

I'd love my kid's to always share a room for as long as possible. I've always hoped for 2 boys and 2 girls so each child could have a roommate well into adulthood. If they go off to university, they'll likely have a roommate in residence, and hopefully one day they'll share their room with a husband/wife, so I don't really see why as children our society is so set on letting them have their own rooms. I think room sharing is great for conflict resolution, community, and even accountability as the kids grow.

Giving opportunities for them to bless each other.
For birthdays and Christmas I know a lot of families who make sure the children, no matter how old, give gifts to one another. I love this idea! We did it for Valentines day this year. A couple weeks ago I took Oli to Dollarama and gave him $5. His job was to look for gifts for each sister to show them he loves them. He was so intense as he was looking for the perfect gift! He wanted to get Lily "a tiny clock" (???) but when we couldn't find one, he chose hair clips. And baby markers and a colouring book for Chloe. He was so excited to be buying something for them that only he chose and paid for (he handed the cashier the money). Or if Lily and I are out for a bagel, I'll ask her if there's anyone we should buy one for too and let her think of Oli and Chloe and then go buy them a bagel too. It's silly little things but I think they are learning to think more of each other and want to bless them.

What do you do in your family? 
What did your parents do with you? 
How have you seen love cultivated in the hearts of babes?

1 comment:

  1. Great post! It's so important to us to cultivate love between our 3 boys. When they are unkind to one another, we talk to them about "treating others how you want to be treated" and teach them that they need to say sorry, i love you and hug the person they hurt. We, as parents, also model this for them in our own relationship. We also model this TO them. If I ever step out of line and raise my voice when I shouldn't, I apologize, communicate my love, and hug them. Sometimes it takes a bit of time and space to get to that point of repentance - but I think it's an important place to get to, and something that will serve them throughout life. It's precious to see them to hug, and witness the sincerity of their "I'm Sorry"