Inside: One simple way to improve sibling relationships and create healthy relationships is to use love languages to reduce sibling rivalry.
My kids have not been at their best.
We were home–and it had felt like we were stuck at home–for a while and they were tap-dancing on each other’s last nerves.
They were taking things that weren’t theirs.
My son tried to “TP” his older sister’s bedroom and laid toilet paper all over the bed which made her raging mad because he was in her room without asking.
They were bickering over who got to choose the TV show they were watching and then hiding the remote from each other.
They fought over the most ridiculous things like who got the red cup and who got to sit next to Daddy at dinner and who had done less work during the family chores.
It was getting out of control.
We work hard to build a strong family identity and one of the things we do to really focus on that is to curb sibling rivalry.
But we needed to do something more during these moments when they were grating on each other’s nerves more than normal.
We needed something that would act as a magic wand to reset their sibling relationship and reduce the sibling squabbles, the sibling bickering, and curb the sibling rivalry so we could get our calm, peaceful, kind home back.
Why Raising Kind Siblings is Essential
We want our kids to be kind and follow the Golden Rule by treating others the way they want to be treated.
We teach them how to be mad without being mean back and retaliating and we spend a lot of time focusing on building positive sibling relationships.
Because these relationships they build with their siblings are crucial to their mental health. If they’re living in a home where they are teased, belittled or bullied, they will not feel safe, comfortable or welcome in their own home.
Sibling teasing and put-downs and exclusion might feel like nothing to us adults. It can be easy to dismiss.
But for our kids, mean spirited sibling rivalry causes real tears in their confidence and their sense of safety and their emotional well being.
Plus, at the end of their childhoods, as they grow up and move away and create families of their own, I want them to want to come back together and spend time with us. Children who are traumatized or brutalized or teased mercilessly by their siblings won’t want to come back to their childhood homes.
Which is heartbreaking.
And for me, since I share a space with these children and I want more peace and more calm and more happiness in my home, I have to create a family that works to create that with me.
Yelling and shrieking and name-calling and fighting and bickering constantly and relentlessly is not okay.
Are we aiming for perfection? Perfect kids, who never disagree or get upset with their siblings? Nope.
But if I want them to create sibling relationships that lift them up, and helps them learn what a healthy relationship looks like, and helps make them better people, then we can’t cross our fingers and hope it happens.
We have to intentionally help our kids do it.
And we “accidentally” found an incredible way to do it.
How to Use Love Languages
With three kids, we were constantly searching for meaningful ways to connect with each one of them.
We wanted to not only deepen our relationship with each of our kids but to show them, prove to them, how much we love them.
So we turned to Love Languages coined and explained by Gary Chapman.
It works for couples, but it also works for children because the main premise is we all want to be loved in different ways. And if we can figure out how our spouse and kids want to be loved, and then do that more often with them, we can spend more quality time with them and “pour into them,” even if we don’t have a lot of time.
So how do we figure out what love language our kids really need?
First, we need to know the different love languages:
- physical touch
- receiving gifts
- words of affirmation
- quality time
- acts of service
Or, if your kids are young, you can observe how they show love to you because most people ask for love in the way they want to be loved.
You can use this guide to help you determine their love language and then determine what activities you can do to prove your love that fills them up the most. (You can download it below.)
So if your kids always want to hold your hand, or sit on your lap, or need to be carried, or want to be snuggled extra long at night, their love language might be touch.
If they’re very generous with their compliments to you, like, “Mommy your hair is so pretty,” it might be words of affirmation.
If they ask to go places with you or do things with you like play their favorite game, it might be quality time.
If they give you gifts like little treasures or rocks or flowers or they make you pictures, it might be receiving gifts.
And if they rush to help you or do a chore for you to be a helper, it might be acts of service.
My youngest daughter’s love language is physical touch and can not get close enough to me when we’re sitting on the couch. She wants me to stroke her back and cuddle with her and rub her arms. And when I snuggle her even if it’s just for a short period of time, she often whispers “I love you too, Mama” even when I hadn’t said, “I love you” to her.
She feels my love.
But, if I tried to do that with my eldest daughter, it wouldn’t have the same powerful impact because physical touch isn’t her love language.
Instead, hers is quality time. She wants to do things with me and be with me. She wants to run errands and grab a special treat together and wants me to help her build a puzzle.
Of course, I still hug her and snuggle her in bed even though she’s 13, but she feels most loved when I engage in her love language: spending time with her.
And of course, I spend time with my youngest daughter. But she feels most loved when she’s being touched.
How Love Languages Can Reduce Sibling Rivalry
We prove our love to our kids using their love languages and these Proof of Love Activities.
And when they feel loved and feel “filled up” they can then spread kindness to others.
But as an added bonus it also lessens sibling rivalry and sibling jealousy.
Kids tend to fight over things they have to share… whether it’s red cups or the remote or us.
And our kids fight when they feel out of control or when their basic needs haven’t been met and they feel physically or emotionally threatened.
But when we give them individual time that makes them feel loved, our kids won’t be vying for our time, or feeling like they need to secure their spot in our home.
They’ll know they fit in, are welcomed, are safe, and feel loved.
My kids were bickering and fighting a little bit more than normal.
So I pressed pause, and separated them. I took a few minutes and cuddled my youngest on the couch. We didn’t need to talk, we just needed to cuddle.
And then I went up to my eldest and we shut the door and chatted on her bed with our feet kicked up.
And then we heard a little knock at her door.
It was her younger sister who had come to apologize.
They stopped bickering and fighting and figured out a plan to play together.
Because they both felt loved. And filled up. So they could then let that positive energy out and share it with their siblings.
And share the remote and the red cup.