For this post I went to my Facebook community and asked them what they most wanted to talk about.
The topic that came up the most? Siblings & Kindness.
Several situations presented – young siblings who need to show more empathy to each other, sisters who show kindness and compassion to everyone else but once they are home – can’t seem to get along.
So, I should start out by being very transparent and say that Stella is an only child. BUT both my husband and I grew up with siblings. I have three sisters – and we all have very different personalities. I remember many arguments, chases down the hallway, frustrated yelling, and some very not nice actions towards each other.
BUT, now as adults – we have a really good relationship. We don’t live physically close to each other but we still feel pretty close when we talk or get together. AND that I contribute to the actions of my parents.
So… what can we do as parents to encourage our children to be nicer at home and to members of the family? I know this can cause some stress if you yourself grew up as an only child OR didn’t have a great relationship with your own brothers and sisters.
But it is possible and it is something you can start today! No, there won’t be a miraculous overnight change – but out of all the tips and advice floating out there – here are the five tips that can get you started, works for all ages (I use these with the college students I work with), and if done consistently, will help you notice a difference FAST.
Tip #1 to help siblings show kindness- Work on Mindset
This is where I usually start with any change that I try to make in my life or in my family’s life. And when it comes to the actions of our kids, understanding their mindset, and knowing how to grow their mindset – is essential.
As a parent, we need to take a step back, remember what it was like when we were younger, and think about what may be happening with our child when he or she does certain actions.
At a young age our kids are watching what we do and listening to what we say. They repeat those actions and words – I learned that the hard way. So when their actions are not kind, we can usually understand their mindset if we take a moment to reflect and not just act.
- Did an argument happen because a favorite toy was snatched – and why did the other person take it away?
- Does one child feel that he or she is not getting as much attention from others?
- Are their interests or even age, so different that they have nothing in common or can’t relate to each other?
By examining what might be behind the actions, the words, or the yelling – we can develop a better strategy that fits the need of each child.
Something that can be put in to practice today to help with mindset is surrounding your children with encouraging words and starting each day/ending each day with thoughts of kindness and compassion.
By joining the Kindness Clubhouse, I am giving you printable quote cards that encourage kindness and you can use them as notes to post on mirrors or place in lunch boxes. I also have a Kindness Wheel activity that your family can use to set an intention at the start of the day. Spin the wheel and then do that act of kindness that day – and reflect on it at the end of the day – was it easy or hard? How did it make you feel?
Tip #2 to help siblings show kindness- Model Empathy
I get this question a lot. How can I teach my kids or my students empathy? How can I get them to understand and share the feelings of the other child?
I think first it having each child recognize their own emotions and be willing to talk about them. They need to feel comfortable that there are going to be times they feel sad, feel mad, feel glad (sorry, I had to do it). They are going to be happy and they are going to be uncomfortable. They are going to feel that hurt by someone else’s actions and they are probably going to do something to hurt someone else – even unintentionally.
We feel all kinds of emotions. A young child may only understand happiness, sadness, and anger while an older child might add frustration to the mix. But by recognizing and talking through their own emotions and what happened to cause those emotions helps them to be able to understand why someone else might feel the emotion when something happens. It allows them to “put themselves in another persons shoes” as the saying goes.
One very simple way to start this today is that in the midst of an argument, have the two children sit and say, “what are you feeling right now” – you could even have them draw a picture or write a note to you, the parent, explaining what happened.
Then, when both are calmed down, you can have a conversation. I love asking, “what would you do if you were me?” “How would you like for someone to respond?
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Tip #3 to help siblings show kindness- Set Shared Play Time or Teamwork Activities
Depending on the age of your kids, how long or involved this time is can differ. With young children, even if they aren’t playing the same thing – they can play alongside each other. As your children are school age, you can include some teamwork activities – disguised as games, even – Then just slip in – wow, you are really good at this and you are good at this – it’s great that we have both of you working together or it would be a lot harder.
I’ve even shared that the times my husband and I grow the most together is when we are working on a project – because we really see how we balance each other out. By recognizing each others strengths – we are more inclined to appreciate and show kindness to each other. And the feeling of accomplishment is a huge bonding opportunity!
How I love doing this the most is having the teamwork activity be performing an act of kindness for someone else. So make sure you get my printable challenge cards (in the Kindness Clubhouse) – 15 Easy Activities to fit in your family’s busy schedule – these give you handy activities – that are quick and easy – that kids all ages can do – from making encouraging bookmarks to stick in books at the library to making sock puppets to help cheer up someones day – this gives a positive spin on team building activities that also have a huge impact.
Tip #4 to help siblings show kindness- Talk about Love Languages
My fourth tip is something that I will dig deeper in an upcoming post but to encourage your kids to show more kindness and empathy – you want to understand their love language – this comes from a book published years ago – but is still a huge influence today. To sum it up, it states everyone shows and receives love in one of five different ways. Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Tangible Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. One child might show kindness through acts of service while another does words of affirmation. When we don’t recognize that there are these different types, then conflict happens- because we simply don’t understand the importance of someone else’s words and actions.
I have a blog post on this. The post is about showing appreciation and how each child feels appreciation differently – based on their “love” language.
Tip #5 to help siblings show kindness- Give your children time to be themselves and support/cheer/celebrate their individual accomplishments and strengths.
I mentioned before that I grew up with three sisters. My older sister is ten years older than me. Then it’s stair steps – me, a sister who is 2 year younger than me, and another sister 2 years younger than her.
We did a lot of things as a family – trips, festivals, and danced together – but we also had our own interests – based on our own strengths. I was heavily involved in Georgia 4-H. One sister heavily involved in dance and teaching dance. And our youngest sister did cheerleading, track, and worked at Chuck E. Cheese – surrounded by kids.
My parents encouraged us to be individuals. They never put us in the position of, “well, your sister did this – so you should too…” – they were careful about comparisons. They understood there are different “intelligences” – I may have worked hard academically, but my sister had really great common sense.
The reason this matters so much to this conversation is that – jealousy and comparisons is at the root to a lot of unkindness. You may not even realize it – but my negative thoughts towards someone is usually because I am not feeling so great about myself in a certain area. Pure jealousy or frustration that it doesn’t feel so easy for me to do something.
By my parents focusing on and celebrating what made us each unique – we felt more comfortable with ourselves – so we were kinder to each other.
Make sure to join the Kindness Clubhouse for more free resources and updates!