Photo courtesy of Jamie Kenney

10 Things Parents Raising Loving Siblings Never Do

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I come from a relatively big family, including three brothers and a sister. So when my husband and I first started talking about having kids, I figured:"I liked the way I grew up, so let's have five!" Turns out, kids are expensive AF (who knew?!) and I hate being pregnant. It was important to me to have at least two, though. Not only did we want more than one child, but I wanted them to have a sibling. I knew that came with responsibility, so believe me when I say there are things parents raising loving siblings never do.

Now, I don't think having multiple children just because you want someone to have a sibling is the way to go. You shouldn't feel pressured to have to provide your child with a companion. I know lots of only children and they don't lack for companionship or fulfilled lives. Most have never expressed even the slightest bit of sadness over not having siblings, either. Besides, there's absolutely no guarantee, in spite of your best efforts and intentions, that your kids are going to be close, or grow up to be buddies. It happens and it's no one's fault! And I don't think there's any tremendous shame in socially incompatible siblings not being close as adults. In my opinion, it doesn't mean you hate each other or anything, it just means "we're adults with our own lives."

That said, I think it's really beautiful to see adult siblings have a close relationship, and I would love that for my children. As such, I'm working on fostering companionship and closeness now, in hopes that it will flourish over time. To that end, I try my hardest to avoid all of the following:

Play Favorites

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Duh, right? It's hard to love your sibling when you feel like you're not on equal footing in your parents' eyes. Of course, kids are weird and a lot of them have a persecution complex (especially as they creep into the tween and teen years) so they may even wind up imagining favorites where none exist, but it's important that you do everything you can to to avoid contributing to that narrative.

Encourage Competition

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It's totally normal for siblings to get competitive. My children make absolutely everything a contest, to the point that one of my most repeated phrases is: "Everyone wins when we have fun."

They do not buy it for an instant, but I feel obligated to reinforce the idea that their life together is not a contest. Of course the occasional contest is perfectly healthy, but letting it overshadow the idea that they are on the same team (go Team Family!) sets the wrong tone for sibling togetherness.

Insist They Do Everything Together

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I'm all for prompting siblings to do things together, but above and beyond being siblings they are their own people. And while building family bonds are important, so too is fostering independence. So let them have their own thing and try not to push them to do everything together. Maybe it sounds kind of counterintuitive, but if a bond feels forced they're either going to resent it or become codependent.

Accept Rudeness

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Siblings say mean things to one another sometimes. (Back in the day my sister was one of the only people I knew who could make me cry. She's cool now, though. ) Don't get terribly worried if your kids hurl insults back and forth, just don't tolerate it, either. "

Be kind" is right up there with "everyone wins when we have fun" in my house. It's not that my kids are viciously cruel to one another, but I never want it to get to that point and encourage them to consider things from the other's person's point of view and embrace empathy.

Forbid Fights Or Force Forgiveness

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It's about balance, guys! No one likes hearing kids bicker, but half the usefulness of having siblings is learning to deal with your peers. Learning how to argue and compromise is, of course, a big part of that social ability. And, anecdotally, ever since I've stopped intervening in my children's arguments they seem to argue less.

If there is a fight that goes south, give them time to cool off. As hilarious as the "get along shirt" meme is, it's important to remember that kids are, actually, real people with real feelings and they might not want to kiss and make up right away any more than you would want to. You don't have to foster a grudge or anything, but give them time to get over it.

Discourage Weirdness

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The best thing about siblings is having someone on hand to explore your weirdness with. My brother and I would make up characters with elaborate back stories all the time. Four of us once built our own Jurassic Park in the back yard. We choreographed elaborate and spastic dances and hardcore geeked out about the same cartoons and movies.

So let them be totally weird together. After all, you'll be holding space for that aspect of their personalities to really flourish without the social consequences that sometimes accompanies fully expressing it outside of the home. (Plus, it gives them the confidence of knowing they're loved even when they're being a little weirdo.)

Allow A Child To Be Left Out Completely

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This is really only relevant to people with more than two kids, but there can be a tendency for kids to sort of faction off. Some degree of this is natural, especially for kids of similar ages, but it's important to make sure no one perpetually feels left out. That doesn't mean including every kid in every activity, but rather making a point of regularly finding activities everyone can enjoy together.

Insist On Being A Part Of Their Bond

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Because this isn't about you. This is about them. You have a bond with your kids, so let them have their own.

Ignore An Act Of Kindness

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More important than what you don't do is what you encourage. So when you see them playing nicely, remark on it. If one does something nice for the other, pay them a compliment. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool in your parenting survival kit.

Avoid The Work Of Fostering Friendship

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Encouraging a lasting friendship between your children will take effort. It's not all on you, and to some degree it's a bit of a crapshoot (remember: they're their own people) but there's a role for you to play here and when it works out it's a thing of beauty.