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What will strengthen my relationship with my siblings?

Advice on Sibling Relationships
tips on sibling harmony

Although family relationships are some of the most valuable ties we have, most children and youth struggle to get along with their brothers and sisters. Irritations, competition, quarrelling, and other typical challenges can quickly turn a household into a battle zone.

It often takes deliberate demonstrations of genuine love before conflicts between brothers and sisters can be resolved and healthy friendships can be formed. The following tips come from young people who have worked diligently to develop and maintain good relationships with their siblings.

Bless Them

I have found that blessing my siblings makes all the difference in our relationship. I didn’t have a good relationship with my brother, and I started to bless him when he did irritating things or whenever he was having a bad day. Blessing him really strengthened our relationship. I found it is even more special to my siblings if I write out a blessing and give it to them.
—A student from North Carolina

Spend Quality Time Together

Being the oldest of nine children, I find that what I do really counts. When done with the right heart, two things almost always bring positive results with my younger siblings. First, I encourage them in what they are doing, whether it is a chore, schoolwork, or a game. I show interest in what they are doing with a sincere smile. (They can read right through you if it is fake!) Asking about their project and giving some ideas always excites them.

The second thing that I have done is invest quality time with them. Taking even 1–5 minutes out of my day and spending it with them brings wonderful results. They feel important in their older brother’s life. As I continue to do this, my relationships with each of my younger brothers and sisters grow stronger.

Dad once explained the five love languages to us. It is real interesting to figure out which ones my siblings enjoy. The love languages are encouraging words, gift giving, physical touch and closeness, serving others, and quality time. Encouraging words and quality time are my siblings’ favorites.

I think the reason the Lord gave me 8 wonderful younger brothers and sisters is because I am a selfish person and need to rid myself of this tendency by pouring out love to 8 siblings.
—A student from Virginia

Take Opportunities to Serve

When your sister or brother asks you to do something for them, instead of getting frustrated about them always telling you what to do, choose to treat the opportunity as an act of worship to the Lord. In your heart you can tell the Lord, “Lord, I will joyfully serve my siblings because I love You, and I love them.”
—A student from Louisiana

Humble Yourself

Scripture says, “Only by pride cometh contention.” When I sense that I am getting irritated, I am reminded that I have lifted myself up by thinking that I deserve better consideration or treatment from my sibling. In actuality, I see how God calls each of us to humble ourselves and to serve even our enemies. When I focus on meeting my siblings’ needs and purpose to serve them, my whole perspective suddenly changes and the irritations become much more minuscule than I had originally thought.
—A student from Indiana

Be Patient

When you are tempted to get irritated, remember I Corinthians 13:5: “Love . . . is not easily provoked.” Quote this verse to yourself over and over again until the Word does its work in your heart and you find yourself at peace again.
—A student from Louisiana

Understand Spiritual Gifts

My relationships with my siblings have grown so much as I have tried to take interest in the activities and things that interest them. This proves to them that I care about them enough to invest some of myself in their lives.

At one time I was having a particular struggle in getting along with one of my brothers. I came to find out what his spiritual gift was, and realized that our tensions stemmed from our wide differences in the way we perceived things. His spiritual gift is teaching—probably the gift that I lacked the most qualities in! By trying to see things from his perspective, I began to see why we were reacting to each other.

I began to appreciate our differences and developed a good friendship with him. We now have a great relationship and have great times together. I have found that it is so easy to sacrifice good relationships with our siblings when we let our outside friends gain too much importance. Quality relationships will come as we make them a high priority.
—Grace from Minnesota

Use Creative Encouragement

Here are some things we’ve done in our family.

For younger siblings:

  • Give each sibling another sibling as a secret pal. Encourage them to write notes, do special chores or favors, give small gifts, and find creative ways to love them.
  • We purchased the CF! character quality cards and plastic holders and carefully explained each quality to the children. They were then told that there would be a special treat with the older siblings when their holders were full. We also told them that in order to successfully complete the project, they could not give good reports about themselves, but they needed to watch for character qualities in their siblings and report that instead!

For older siblings:

  • My brother takes me out on “dates” every now and then, and it is so special to me! These dates give us time to talk about what the Lord is doing in our lives and to encourage each other in our various endeavors.
  • I have learned what makes each of my siblings feel loved, and I attempt to demonstrate my love for each of them based on this. It’s amazing what a difference this has made in our relationships! They have, in turn, overwhelmed me with their love for me!

—Andria from Wisconsin

Host an Appreciation Dinner

When I feel my relationship with my younger brother needs strengthening, I will surprise him with an appreciation dinner. After fixing his favorite meal, my family gathers around the table (my brother is clueless), and then we shout, “Three cheers for Peter!!!” He’s utterly shocked! Throughout the meal we share incidents where he demonstrated specific character qualities and give examples of how he has benefited our lives. These “banquets” have given me an opportunity to express my appreciation to him, thereby enriching our relationship with each other.
—Anna from Iowa

Take Scripture Walks

Something that I have done with my little brothers is to take Scripture walks with them. This is a time that I go alone with one of my little brothers, and we walk through the orchard memorizing Scripture together. This has been a fun time for them, especially as we sometimes put the Scripture to a song.
—Rachel from Michigan

Be a Good Example

As the eldest sibling in my family, I realized how much my younger sisters and brothers look up to me and want to be just like me. This has inspired and motivated me to follow closely in the footsteps of Jesus so that my younger siblings will desire to do the same.
—Sarah from Washington

Be a Good Big Brother

When I was growing up, I missed not having a big brother. In fact, I missed not having any brothers, until finally the fifth child in our family was a boy. The only trouble was that I was 9 years older than him!

This new addition to our family was a joy at first, but as my brother got older, he became a downright irritation. His great curiosity in exploring things in my room became a real problem—this was not what I had in mind. Time went on, and we both matured somewhat, but we were far enough apart in age that our interests remained quite different.

Only within the last several years did I begin to really appreciate my brother and the situation he is in. He was facing the same struggles that I had faced years before, only he does have a big brother—me. This realization has motivated me to make use of every opportunity we have together, knowing that we have only limited opportunities to be together, and there is no better way to invest my time.
—A Young Man

Understand Love Languages

I have always loved my sisters, but in the past two years the Lord has convicted me of my lack of outward manifestations of that love. The biggest thing for me was learning the ways in which my sisters desire to be loved (i.e., their love languages), and loving them in those ways. Whether it be a hug, a gift, or just time spent together, I am learning to show my love for them in ways that will mean much more to them. The best part is, my love for them is growing deeper than it ever has been!
—Joshua from New York

Initiate a Scripture Memory Challenge

A good friend of mine encouraged me to invest in my younger brother, even though I am away from home. After praying about how I could invest in his life, I decided to challenge my brother to memorize Romans 6–8. For motivation, I offered a substantial reward if he were to accomplish the challenge by the date we agreed on. Since I have never done anything like this with my brother before, he was kind of surprised that I asked him to do it. I was even more surprised when he enthusiastically accepted the challenge.

This project brought a twofold blessing to me and my brother. First, we both drew closer to the Lord as we experienced the rewards of meditating on His Word. Second, our relationship was strengthened by the common bond of working on the same project together. We are closer now than we ever have been before.

If you are an older brother and you have never done anything special to invest in the lives of your younger siblings, I encourage you to do so. Even if they don’t express it, you will be surprised at how much they look up to you.
—Laurence from Kansas

Work on Projects Together

A great way to invest in my younger brothers is to involve them in a project that I am working on. They really get excited about helping their big brother on one of his special projects!
—Stephen from Texas

Don’t Annoy Them

One thing I’ve learned is to be attentive (and sensitive, too) to their irritations, and avoid doing certain things like tickling them, calling them by their nicknames, etc., if it irritates them. Also, a lesson I’m in the process of learning is that “a soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). It’s amazing what a soft answer can do!
—Vanessa from Illinois

Practice Repentance and Forgiveness

There were several things that the Lord used in our lives to bring us to a point where we had more sibling harmony. I will share a couple here. One, I, as the older brother had to come to a place where I took responsibility for the offense, whether it was really all my fault or not (it usually was my fault). Two, once I was willing to do that, it gave me the initiative to approach my sister to clear my conscience and ask her forgiveness. Three, to then purposely and consciously invest in her and her interests. . . . When she saw that I was really interested in her and loved her, then she responded by returning the favor. We are now best of friends and enjoy each other’s company as best as I know that siblings should.
—Paul from Wyoming

Do Things Together

Spending time with your siblings is so important. I found that including them in my shopping trips made the mundane enjoyable and memorable for the both of us. Of course, you must get a container of chocolate milk or an ice cream cone for the ride home!
—Katie from Oregon

Enjoy Each Other’s Company

When my brother approached his 21st birthday, I designed a scrapbook of his life to honor and challenge him. It included the story of his life from his big sister’s perspective, with lots of pictures! This gave me an even greater realization of just how special my little brother is to me!

My brother and I loved spending time together on my parent’s date nights. We would build tents, play games, cook treats, and have loads of fun together.

I’ve found great effectiveness in strengthening my relationship with my brother by finding his interests and then getting involved. Hunting and outdoor activities are not my “cup of tea.” However, as I’ve done these things with the goal of enjoying my brother, they’ve grown on me.
—Janie from Texas

Talk “Man to Man”

It took a lot of humbling, but I had to realize that I was the one at fault for many of my younger brother’s shortcomings. I was advised by a Godly man to take him out to breakfast and talk “man to man” with him, even though he was only 11 years old at the time. I did this when I was home one weekend, and after I related the ways in which I had been a negative example to him and asked his forgiveness, my whole family saw a change in the way that he began to take on the responsibilities of the oldest boy at home. I gave him a small, useful gift as a commemoration of his “growing up,” and he still carries it and remembers when he received it. In this situation, a small outing and a material memoir were needed to set apart the conversation as a turning point in his life.
—Andy from Wisconsin

Send “Mail”

When Dan was little, we had a mock mail system going for him. We/he made a “mailbox” out of a shoe box, with a little slit in the top to drop “mail” through. Kara Lee and I would write him little notes or put something else in there every day (whether it was praising him for some demonstration of character, or a Bible verse, etc.). He just loved checking his mailbox every day. Now that he’s older, it’s more just been a matter of spending time talking to him, going to his baseball games, etc. And, even still at the age he is now, I’ve sent him a couple of letters and I try to talk to him and Alicia individually on the phone at least every other week while I am away.
—Kim from Nebraska

Learn Something New Together

My brother and I grew closer in our relationship by taking a language course together. The emphasis on speaking motivated more communication on both our parts.
—Jennifer from Missouri

Invest Time to Meet Needs

My younger brother and I share a bedroom. I struggled with his disorganized manner, until I realized that he was more important than a neat room. At that point I decided that I would clean up his things and make his bed—investing my time to meet his needs. Our relationship has improved drastically!
—Peter from Illinois

Love, Encouragement, and Praise

My sister’s love language is quality time, and she values it so much when I take the time to talk to her, or just to listen to her stories. Another way we have “bonded” is by looking at pictures from when we were younger. As we look over those pictures, I tell her stories about the first day I met her, how I felt when I heard her laugh for the first time, and various other things that stand out as special memories. We love it!

The most important thing that I have found is finding your sibling’s love language and practicing it! Her love language is last on my list, and mine is her last. But it’s been so important to get past that.

If our siblings don’t find love and acceptance from us, they will go elsewhere to get it. In order to be an effective example, I have found that I must first have my sister’s trust.

It is also SO important to praise siblings! We can’t praise enough. I have found that praise has been the most effective tool for encouraging Beth to grow.
—Rebecca from Kansas

Include the Younger Ones

One way that I felt my older brothers invested in me was by specifically asking me if I wanted to do something with them, inviting me to go along, or asking if I wanted to help in a project they were working on or for my ideas in a matter. I always felt real important and grown-up when they asked for their little sister’s input or when they actually wanted their little “tag-along” along!
—Tiffany from Wyoming

Spend Time Together

Since I have 4 younger siblings, it seems that there is always someone who needs to have time invested in them. One thing that I love to do with them is to take them on a special outing—just the two of us! Whether it is just to run an errand and stop for a milkshake, going for a bike ride, or washing the car, etc. The result is twofold: they get the joy of feeling like a VIP because of the one-on-one time, and I get the joy of seeing their happiness!
—Bethany from Oregon

Make Memories Together

My 17-year-old sister and I share an attic bedroom, and recently we have started reading with our younger sisters in the evening, letting them “camp out” in our bedroom. It has been a joy to spend time investing in the lives of my sisters, strengthening our relationships, and building memories that we will always treasure.
—Hannah from Michigan

Pray for Them

I have seen a direct relationship between the frequency of my prayers for my siblings’ needs and the patience and capacity God gives me to love them.
—Julianne from California

Accept Reproof

I’ve found that one of the best things you can do for younger siblings is just to listen to them—uninterrupted. Give them your full attention. This can include them sharing things that are happening in their lives, but it can also include listening to them if they are pointing out your blind spots. One of the greatest things that’s happened to me is humbling myself to listen to my younger sisters’ criticisms of me and learning to profit from them.
—Dawn from Illinois

For Further Study

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