Helping Siblings to be Great Friends

I have four sons, and there are a lot of things that make me proud of them. But one of my favorite things:  They are absolutely, without a doubt, very best friends.  All four.

People often ask me what I’ve done to make it that way, and I know I can’t take all of the credit for it. But the truth is, there are a few things that we have done as parents that have made a really big difference.
Here are a few of the things we do that contribute to our boys’ great friendships:

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1. They share bedrooms. We have two boys per bedroom.  This is both out of necessity and preference.  We actually have one extra room that we have offered to our boys, and they have all turned it down.  They prefer to be together.  They lie awake and chat at night.  They hang out in their rooms and play music.  Together.  They are roommates in the truest sense of the word. the truth is, if you knew my boys, you’d have to agree that this may not be a very natural pairing; each of the sets of boys have very different personalities, lifestyle habits, and housekeeping habits (or lack thereof).  Sharing rooms could easily be a problem.  But they have learned to get along.  They have learned to work together.  Sharing rooms has absolutely brought them close.

2. They are together–a lot.   This one comes with the territory, because yes — we homeschool.  Many families suggest that if their kids were together all day, they would fight like crazy, though for us I think the opposite is true.  Sure, my boys squabble at times, but because they are together all of the time, they have learned to work things out.  They have learned to overlook (most of) each other’s idiosyncrycies, and in general tolerate the things that get on their nerves.  They (mostly) get along great now.  They have inside jokes (or a million), they know each other inside and out, and have many mutual hobbies and interests.

For families that do not homeschool, I believe that you can still instill more sibling together time intentionally.  Perhaps trading in some time with peers for more family time.  This might receive some push-back initially, but in time they all probably learn to love it.  Once they get used to regular time together, most siblings end up enjoying it!

3. They work together.   Our boys do plenty of chores, (It took a long time to figure out, but we use a rotating system that we love!)  But we also have a special projects for our boys that require that they work together.  This forces them to become co-workers as well as brothers.  And somewhere in the midst of the work I find them swapping jokes, singing songs, or having a good time in the midst of their work.

best buds

4. They bond when we travel.   Since we live in Hawaii– on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, we don’t get to travel very often. However if you asked our kids about their best memories, they would all name a vacation we have taken as a family.  Bonds happen when you’re in new places or finding adventures!  Whether you take a road trip, camp out, or fly somewhere exciting, kids will hold on to memories of family travel for a lifetime.  I know some families let their kids invite friends on trips with them, and I see where that has some benefits.  I still think there is something special about it being just the family; kids are forced to get along, and when they’re forced to be together, sometimes they learn to be best friends.

5. They support each other in sports and activities.   Sometimes our boys are heading all different directions, and that is fine.  One of our boys is a competitive surfer, and my husband and I put a lot of long weekends into supporting his contests.  We don’t expect the brothers to have to go along and watch all of his contests but we do make sure they come along for some of them.  We want to raise boys who know how to support and cheer one another on.  When another brother has a soccer game, we’ll load up the whole family to support him.  It’s not always the easy way, but it is so valuable.

6. We are proactive in parenting.   We step in where needed, and spend a lot of time training our boys in character.  We focus in on areas that are lacking or needing improvement.  We teach them how to speak, respond, handle feelings.  We use birthdays and special occasions to have kids go around and speak affirming words to each other.  Parents really can set the tone and establish rituals and routines for siblings to build one another up!

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If your kids have a good relationship, I would love to hear some of the things that you think contribute to it.  Share any helpful tools or tips you know in comments!