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12 Tips to Help Your Kids Create Loving Relationships With One Another That Will Last a Lifetime

12 Tips to Help Your Kids Create Loving Relationships With One Another That Will Last a Lifetime

My parents have been married for over 40 years. They have six children together, and although all these children have grown up to be very different individuals, they have great bonds and friendships even into adulthood. My parents did so much to help facilitate love, respect, and positive relationships among all six of us.

I love my sibilings and I am grateful for them. My parents taught us to get along as kids, so that we could get along as adults and lean on one another during difficult times.

Now that I am raising three children with my husband I want my children to have the same type of bond that I developed with my own sibilings. Having a doctorate in psychology, I am always analyzing behavior according to what works and perhaps what doesn’t. I am committed to helping my children develop positive relationships with one another that will last a lifetime.

I recognize those relationship skills begin now and are learned in childhood. We can verbally teach our kids positive relationship skills, but we also model these skills through our own behaviors with others, especially with our spouse or partner. Below are my top 12 tips for facilitating loving relationships among siblings during childhood, so that these loving relationships will last a lifetime.

1. Teach your children the art of apologizing.

Teaching children to apologize and to do so effectively is a skill that can help them become successful adults. There are several components involved in a sincere apology. These components involve not making excuses, accepting their responsibility in the situation, voicing a sincere apology, and making the situation right again. Not making excuses means they don’t try to excuse their behavior or reaction.

For example, when a sibling hits another sibling and tries to justify their hit because their sibling stole their toy or hit them first, they are making excuses. They need to own their part of the conflict without excuses. This means verbalizing an apology that doesn’t have anything attached to it.

Inappropriate apology: “I am sorry I hit you, but you took my toys from my room.”

Appropriate apology: “I am sorry for hitting you.”

If there is a way the child can make the situation right, the parent can help point those things out. For example, if a child broke one of their sibling’s toys, then the child that broke the toy can apologize and also offer to use their allowance to pay to replace the broken toy. If they don’t offer, then it can simply be a part of their punishment, as a consequence for breaking the toy.

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A parent can even add to that punishment because the child refused to offer to compensate for the broken toy on their own free will. It’s all about consequences and making sure the child understands those consequences and how they got to where they are in the situation. It was because of the choices the child made.

2. Teach your children the art of forgiveness.

Research by Cohen shows that there are emotional and physical implications when someone chooses to not forgive. A noteworthy quote from this research article: “The emotional and physiological data suggest that a sustained pattern of unforgiveness over time could result in poorer health because of the negative psychophysiological states that accompany unforgiveness.” Teaching children how to appropriately forgive can help them live more emotionally and physically healthy.

Parents need to teach their children that forgiveness is an action. It starts with the words “I forgive you.” It’s OK to let the child know that hard feelings may still be there, but time will mend things if they have a heart of forgiveness. Having a heart of forgiveness means they give empathy toward the offender. It also makes the assumption that the offender is good and did not intend actual harm, because their actions were done out of heightened emotions or accidentally.

Forgiveness can be complicated sometimes, so simply teaching your children to say “I forgive you” and then hug one another is a step in the right direction. Saying “I don’t forgive you” should not be allowed among siblings. It will begin the process of harboring resentment and grudges and no good parent wants that for their children.

3. Have them help one another.

Having siblings help one another for the small things in life will hopefully lead to them helping one another with the big things in life when it really matters. They can help each other from early ages too. Siblings who are slightly older can help with some of the basic care of the younger ones, such as assisting parents with dressing, feeding, and cleaning younger siblings who need help doing those tasks. They can also do fun things for one another, such as read stories or sing songs to one another at bed time.

My daughter sings to her younger twin brothers at bedtime, and it is a sweet time that I hope they remember as adults. It is important that they see one another as helpers to each other or more importantly, they view their sibling relationship as a team working together.

Try to recognize the opportunities where they can help one another, as you want these positive interactions to outweigh the conflict that so inevitably happens between siblings. When parents take the time to create opportunities for positive interactions, such as though having siblings help one another through daily tasks, then the sibling bond becomes stronger and interactions becomes more positively focused.

4. Have them say “I love you” daily.

I once heard a Mom say “well, I don’t make my children say I love you to one another; I want them to do it on their own free will.” That sentiment is very nice; however we as parents, must teach our children how to behave and interact with one another. I would love for my children to voluntarily wake up every morning and make their bed on their own free will, but it isn’t going to happen.

We teach our children what is good and appropriate behavior. Teaching them to say “I love you” when appropriate, such as going off to school or going to bed at night, is showing them it’s good to verbalize affection toward one another. Doing this with your spouse is good modeling of this behavior as well. You want your child to be able to express love for others as adults, so help them do so with their siblings today.

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5. The expression of physical affection is taught.

Once again, physical affection, much like verbal affection is taught. There are some kids who would never hug if it wasn’t taught to them. Every child is different, but they need to see that physical affection such as hugging, holding hands, and other appropriate physical affection is good between siblings. In our home, when there is an apology that takes place, it is followed up with a hug.

Physical affection is very important because research by News in Health shows that physical affection such as hugs releases positive hormones called oxytocin. Some important information was noted in this article, something all parents should know: “One thing researchers can say with certainty is that physical contact affects oxytocin levels. Light says that the people who get lots of hugs and other warm contact at home tend to have the highest levels of oxytocin in the laboratory”.

Hugs and physical affection at home affects our level of oxytocin, which affects our levels of happiness. Kids need hugs and appropriate physical affection from Mom, Dad, and siblings.

6. Siblings need time together outside of their parents.

If parents are always facilitating the interactions between siblings and are always with siblings in order for them to interact together, then a bond between siblings outside of their parents cannot occur. Kids need time to play together and spend time together during the day outside of their parents.

If your schedule is too packed and the kids don’t have that time to spend together, it is at the detriment of their current and future relationship as siblings. Cut back on outside activities to ensure that siblings get time together to play, learn, and grow together. Preferably without a parent hovering over them in a manner which inhibits their natural interactions.

7. Don’t create a competitive atmosphere.

Don’t create a competitive atmosphere among siblings by comparing their abilities or pitting them against one another. Remember, you want them to get along together, as a team, not be against one another. Saying things like “why can’t you be more like Sally” or “clean your room like Johnny cleans his — why can’t you be like him?” Those sort of statements pit children against one another and make the children resentful of their siblings.

Instead, praise children for their individual abilities and skills. Try to keep the praise as equal as possible. I recognize that sometimes this is not easy and some days are better than others. It is important as a parent to TRY to make things fair and equal in regard to praise and affirmations.

You may not be able to praise them for the same things, and that is OK, as all children are different and are born with individual abilities and talents. Parents need to recognize the individual and at the same time — not compare them to their siblings. It only creates hard feelings between siblings when comparisons are made.

8. Model kindness and respect.

A parent sets the standard for how people are to treat one another in the home. Much of this is done through modeling, whether we like it or not. This is why it is so important for parents to treat one another with respect and kindness.

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This means being nice to one another by helping each other and speaking with kind tones and words on a regular basis. Kids are watching how you treat your spouse and others, so be a good example for them. If you are sarcastic and rude to your spouse, then don’t be surprised when your kids act that way to one another.

It is hard enough to teach good behavior. If our modeling undermines what we are teaching them verbally, then we are spinning our wheels.

9. Create family memories they can carry into adulthood.

Spend time as a family doing fun things that facilitate positive interactions and memories. It can be as simple as playing board games, going to a water park, or doing a family vacation. Making an effort to create memories that your children can reminisce about as adults is important.

They won’t want to revisit the hardships, the bickering, and the fights, as those are not pleasant memories to revisit. Instead, be sure the family is creating memories that are worth revisiting. If life is all work and no play, the kids suffer, as do their memories of childhood.

Take the time to cherish their childhood, as it is fleeting. The memories they make will last a lifetime, so make sure there are plenty of positive ones. Take lots of photos, so you have proof of those good time. A photo is worth a thousand words, so take photos when positive family times happen.

10. Help them learn conflict-resolution skills.

Sibling conflict is inevitable, but it is also something parents should be concerned about. Research by Howe & Recchia found a correlation between severe conflict in sibling relationships during childhood and maladjustment in adulthood. For example, one finding cited by Howe & Recchia was that “extreme levels of childhood sibling conflict are related to later violent tendencies as adults.”

It is important that there are rules in place in a household first; the next step is helping children resolve their conflicts through some parental mediation. I have a good example of this recently in our home: two of the kids were fighting over a toy. In our home, if toys are fought over, they are taken away. We call it toy time out.

In this particular instance, I warned the kids that they had one minute to decide how to share the toy and stop arguing, or the toy would be taken away. Sure enough, my daughter told her brother he could have it first, and then she would play with it in a few minutes when he was done. The argument ceased between them without me having to even go into the room.

The key to making this work is to follow through every time. If they hadn’t come to an agreement within a minute, I knew I had to follow through and take away the toy. Not following through would otherwise mean to them that my threats are meaningless, and they don’t have to actually problem-solve anything together because there aren’t consequences. Finding the teachable moments to help moderate conflict-resolution skills is helpful to children learning to implement these skills on their own in the future.

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Conflict resolution doesn’t have to be complicated. It is simply finding a solution that works for both parties by having both people understand the other person’s perspective. Kids can learn to do this with some guidance and mediation from their parents.

11. Help them see the good and positive in one another.

Teaching your children to give their siblings the benefit of the doubt can help them go a long way in developing a positive relationship. Help your kids see that they don’t mean to harm one another, meaning they give them the benefit of the doubt in situations when one child feels wronged by the other.

For example, if Suzy pushes her brother down because they are playing tag and it got too rough, then the parent can help the situation by asking Suzy if she intended to push her brother to hurt him. Of course she will say no, and the parent can give the opportunity for her to explain that it wasn’t done on purpose, and that it was indeed an accident.

Going through this type of scenario from time to time helps you show your kids that they don’t intend actual harm to one another. Accidents happen and sometimes emotions get too high as well. Helping them recognize their siblings are indeed good human beings and not out to get them is a great thing a parent can do for their kids.

12. Let them know how lucky they are to have one another.

Not every child gets a sibling. Let children know that they are lucky to have their siblings. They have a special bond and place in the world because they do have siblings. For many people their sibling relationships are the longest lasting relationships they will have in their lifetime. Help them start it out on the right foot by teaching them how to have good and healthy sibling relationship during childhood.

References:

Cohen, Andy (2004). Research on the Science of Forgiveness: An Annotated Bibliography. Whttp://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_science_of_forgiveness_an_annotated_bibliography

Howe, N. & Recchia, H. (2004). Sibling Relations and Their Impact on Children’s Development. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_science_of_forgiveness_an_annotated_bibliography

News in Health (2007). The Power of Love: Hugs and Cuddles Have Long-Term Effects. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2007/february/docs/01features_01.htm

Featured photo credit: Having fun on #AmericasBestBeaches by Visit St. Pete/Clearwater via flickr.com

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Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Published on July 23, 2020

11 Signs You’re an Overprotective Parent (And What to Do About It)

11 Signs You’re an Overprotective Parent (And What to Do About It)

Have you ever followed your child around the playground? They may have been a toddler and you were worried they would take the wrong step and fall off the jungle gym. Therefore, you followed your toddler around, keeping them within arm’s reach so that you could prevent them from falling or having an accident.

I have been that parent at the playground in the past. With twin boys who had no fear as toddlers, I would follow them onto playground equipment because I was concerned for their safety.

After a few months of doing this, I stopped. I came to realize that children need to learn through their own experiences. They will fall, but they will also learn how to avoid danger and make calculated judgments about risks through their experiences. If I was always there to stop them from falling, they wouldn’t learn to stop themselves.

They had to learn things on their own. Of course, as a parent, it is still my responsibility to not place them in situations where they could be terribly injured.

For example, we started at playgrounds that were intended for children under the age of five. We didn’t move up to the big playgrounds until they were old enough and aware of their behaviors and the risks involved in playground play activities.

Why Parents Become Overprotective

The intention of overprotective parenting is well-meaning. These types of parents are highly concerned about their children’s safety and decision making. Their ultimate goal is to protect their child from harm. Parents should be concerned about the safety and well-being of their children.

However, on the flip side, parents should also be teaching their children about risk and responsibility. Those lessons are best taught through life experience. If we are always following behind our children, ready to catch them at a moment’s notice, then we aren’t allowing them to learn about risk and responsibility.

Unger, a researcher on overprotective parenting, suggests that parents should allow children to participate in activities on their own that are considered low-risk.[1] This means allowing children to engage in activities on their own that provide “manageable amounts of risk and responsibility.”

Unger cited that parents have become increasingly more protective of their children and are much more watchful of their children’s activities than previous generations.

The problem with being an overprotective parent is that the child misses out on the opportunity to build responsible behavior skills, build autonomy, and develop self-esteem. Their confidence can be undermined when mom or dad are always watching and guiding their behavior.

They can develop a sense that they are unable to make their own good decisions because they are never allowed to do so in life. Their confidence and self-esteem are hindered when they aren’t allowed to do things on their own without their parents hovering or watching over them.

What Are the Signs of an Overprotective Parent?

Parents with overly protective tendencies think that they are helping their child. Their goal is to protect their child, but it goes to the extreme. Below are some ways that a parent can be overly protective.

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This type of behavior can end up harming their child’s development when one or more of these behaviors is present. There are likely other ways that a parent can be overprotective of their child, as this list is not comprehensive.

These are examples so you can assess your behavior to determine if you need to loosen up overly protective parenting habits.

  1. You choose your child’s friends or direct them toward friendships with particular children.
  2. You don’t allow them to do activities on their own. For example, not allowing them to walk the dog in front of your home even though you live in a safe neighborhood and could even watch them from the front window.
  3. You are constantly monitoring your child. For example, you show up at their sports practices often to check in and see how they are doing or you go online to check their grades every week to ensure that they don’t have any missing work in any classes. If they do have missing work, you make sure that they get it completed and turned in before their final grade can be affected.
  4. You prevent them from making mistakes when you can see that they are going to make a low-risk mistake. For example, not allowing your five-year-old to put ketchup on their pancakes because you know they are going to dislike it and ruin their breakfast. You won’t allow them to chose to make such a mistake because you know that they will cry and get upset and you want to prevent them from becoming emotionally upset.
  5. You don’t allow them to go to friend’s homes without you.
  6. Sleepovers at other homes or camps are never allowed during their childhood.
  7. You drill them with questions about their life when they are out of your sight, such as wanting to know about all the details of their school day every day when you pick them up from school.
  8. You guide them to the extent that they are prevented from failing. For example, not allowing your teen to try out for the basketball team because you know that they will not make the cut.
  9. You make their decisions for them. For example, you don’t allow them to choose whether they can walk to school or ride the bus. You drive them and do not allow for any decision outside of this because you want to keep them safe.
  10. You are always volunteering to serve in their school classroom or chaperone the school trips because you want to “keep an eye on what is going on in your child’s class”.
  11. You do not allow them to have secrets or privacy. For example, they are not allowed to have a locked diary that you do not read or you don’t allow them to lock their bedroom door ever.

Why Being Overprotective Is Not a Good Idea

Kids learn from natural consequences. If they are not allowed to have natural consequences because their parent is continually protecting them from failure and harm, their development is being hindered.

For example, let’s look at a child named Sally who is 13. She is a child who is overly managed by her parents and is not allowed to go to sleepovers or even go to another friend’s home. Her parents are worried about stranger danger and what can happen if they are not with their child.

Sally is allowed to have friends at her home, but her parents are always watching the kids. Whenever Sally and her friends begin to disagree, the argument is squelched before the children can even begin to work things out between themselves because Sally’s parents will intervene and solve the problem.

Sally is never alone with friends outside of school because her parents are always present. The presence of her parents in her socialization is hindering her development.

She doesn’t know how to work out disagreements between her peers because she has never been allowed the opportunity to even try. Her social skills are lacking because parents intervene to direct her behavior while she is with her friends.

Kids Need Space and Time

Kids need space and time to be independent while they are children. If Sally were to be left alone with her friends, her friends would eventually push back at her bossy behavior when her parents are not present.

However, because Sally’s parents are always present she gets away with being overly-bossy to her friends. She is not learning about the natural consequences of her bossiness but someday will when it may be difficult to change her behaviors as she is older in more set in her ways.

It is easier to learn through natural consequences at a young age. Sally will likely end up going to therapy as an adult because she can’t keep friendships intact. Her bossy behaviors and lack of awareness have led to her having severed friendships repeatedly as a young adult.

She will have to work with a therapist to uncover the reason why she is losing friends and then work to change her behavior to learn better ways to act towards her friends in the future.

Effects of Overprotection

There are a variety of effects of overprotective parenting. It is often dependent on the methods the parent utilizes and the extent of the overprotective behavior.

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For example, let’s look at Tina who is a girl age 10. She wants to run and participate in her school’s after-school competitive track program. However, she is not allowed to participate in after school activities because her parents are worried that she will be exposed to boys and may start having relationships with the opposite sex too young.

Another concern is that a boy may “take advantage” of their daughter, so they want to protect her from being exposed to boys outside of school and their supervision.

The problem with this is that Tina is missing out on participating in a sports activity that could help her develop friendships. She is also missing out on the opportunities associated with being a part of a team, working hard physically to compete, and developing sportsmanship skills.

Her parents are well-meaning, but their over-protection is preventing her from participating in a sports activity that she deeply desires to engage in.

There are other effects of overprotective parenting. Below are some examples.

Examples of Overprotective Parenting

This list is not comprehensive, as every parenting situation and family is unique. However, this list can help provide some insight into the detrimental effects that overprotective parenting can cause.

1. Lack of Self-Esteem Development

If children are not allowed to try things on their own, they cannot build self-confidence and self-esteem.

2. Lack of Autonomy

If a child is always accustomed to having a parent around and supervising their behavior, they can become dependent on the decision making of their parents because they are never allowed to be alone or do things alone.

3. Anxiety

A child who is never allowed to try to do things on their own can become anxious when they are finally allowed to try things out on their own. They worry about making mistakes or failing because they have continually had a parent to help them avoid mistakes and failure.

4. Lack of Responsibility

When parents are always helping and guiding their children to an extreme, children will fail to develop their own responsibility skills. If they are never held responsible for anything, how can they develop a sense of responsibility?

5. People-Pleasing Tendencies

Youniverse explained that children who have overprotective parents who constantly direct their children’s behavior end up seeking the approval of those in their life.[2] These children will grow up accustomed to someone always telling them what the “right behavior” looks like.

If they don’t have that praise or comfort of someone saying they did things right, they can become anxious or depressed. They become people-pleasers who seek the appraisal of others.

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6. Risky Behavior

When children are raised in an overly protective home, they often engage in risky behavior when the reigns are lifted. They haven’t experienced the failures associated with low-risk situations at a younger age because of their overly protective parents.

Therefore, when they get older, access to high-risk situations becomes more easily accessible, and without understanding high risk versus low-risk situations, they engage without the wisdom of previous experiences.

Because of their inexperience with risks in general, they may engage in high risk because they are unaware of consequences.

7. Diminished Development Regarding Fear, Social Skills, and Coping Skills

Psychology Today explains that children with overprotective parents have developmental issues, such as not being able to deal with stress and poor social skills.[3]

For example, a child who isn’t allowed to play on a playground because the parent wants to protect their child from injury is prevented from learning about risk-taking on the playground and the bumps and bruises from consequences.

Such a child may grow up to either having too much fear because it was instilled by their parents or have no fear because they have no concept of high-risk versus low-risk behavior.

8. Lack of Immunity

The Psychology Today article also explained that children who have overly protective parents that do not allow exposure to germs can become children who have a compromised immune system. Exposure to germs as children is needed for them to develop a healthy immune system naturally.

When parents are disinfecting everything the child encounters and not allowing exposure to germs (e.g., not allowing them to go to a petting zoo or to play in the sandbox because of the germs in those places), they can be stunting their child’s ability to develop their immune system.

9. Control Freaks

Children who have been parented by control freaks learn this behavior from their parents. Parents are the primary role model of behavior for their children. If children see their parents acting as though they must have control over others and every situation at all times, then they too will learn to behave in this same manner.

What to Do If You Are an Overprotective Parent

If after reading this content you feel that you may be an overprotective parent, there is hope. You can change.

It begins with loosening the reigns of control over your child in a calculated and reasonable manner. Allowing for low-risk behaviors and the consequences involved can help your child become more independent.

There is definitely a balance to protective versus overprotective parenting. Allowing for activities and exposure to experiences that are low-risk is a good way to start.

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For example, allowing your child to play on age-appropriate playground equipment (without following them) is a good first step. They will experience some bumps and bruises, but this is a part of normal development and learning about consequences.

You will want to research authoritative parenting methods if you feel you are an overprotective parent. Overprotective parents tend to be authoritarian parents.

Here is a LifeHack article I previously wrote about authoritarian parenting, so you can understand the drawbacks to this parenting method: Authoritarian Parenting.

Authoritative parenting is not control-based parenting. It involves teaching consequences naturally, allowing age-appropriate decision-making, and having conversations with children rather than dictating for ultimate control and compliance.

MSU Extension provides some great guidelines for authoritative parenting.[4] Below are some of the behaviors they described with authoritative parenting methods:

  • Provide reasonable, age-appropriate expectations for children.
  • Stress and anxiety for children can have positive outcomes, as they are allowed to experience these feelings in small doses as children. They can then build their coping skills and ability to deal with stress and anxiety through experience.
  • Encourage independence, as it helps children build their confidence and self-esteem.
  • Allowing for failures when they are young helps them learn how to pick themselves back up and try again. Developing this ability at a young age regularly will help prepare them for bigger failures when they are older, such as breakups, failed classes, or losing a job.

Final Thoughts

It is never too late to work on our parenting skills. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, therefore, we can always be working on improving our parenting methods.

We all want our children to be successful, happy, and competent as adults. It does not happen overnight. Parenting is a continual process of trying daily to help our children live and learn through their own life experiences.

If we try to protect them every step of the way, then they are not being allowed to truly experience life.

Allow for age-appropriate experiences and allow for failures so that they can learn how to pick themselves back up and try again.

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Featured photo credit: Sue Zeng via unsplash.com

Reference

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