I just finished reading the book ‘The Checklist Manifesto’ by Atul Gawande how we can benefit by approaching any task systematically through checklists, not cut corners and be thorough with no holes to poke. I could not help thinking about siblings’ dynamics in a parallel universe and see if we can think of a checklist.
First, I think siblings have immense value in providing opportunity for negotiating conflict, sharing, and tolerance in accepting idiosyncrasies. It is the siblings that are (also by choice) going to accompany you in the life’s journey forever. I see that sibling relationships are defined not only by nurture and guidance, but also by the inherent nature of the people themselves. I am fascinated to see such a diversity of relationship styles among siblings couched within stable families. My overarching thought is how advantageous it is to have a sib. However, parents may feel they are taking one step forward and three steps backward in keeping peace among sibs. This is especially the case if they see a tinge of extra meanness in one of the three kids or if one of them is too busy to care for the other. You would be surprised to see how even a seemingly mean kid transforms into kind person with time, circumstances and a bit of guidance.
How about parents have a checklist in helping our children in their formative years to be reminded concretely of a few steps:
- Highlight the parts of kindness and compassion the children hold within themselves and help them see it and own it. Expand on their good virtues for them to hear and build on their character.
- Guide them to offer compliments to their sibs (requires teaching what to say at times)
- Ask to care for the brother or sister such as offering a snack after school (This could giving something small, at all ages)
- Ask to play with them (give ideas; trust me, these tips are helpful even for us as adult sibs, could be going out together)
- Enquire about the day and listen to it (remind them that listening requires focus without interruptions)
- Try to learn to support if the sibling had a hard day (explain at some point that it requires empathy)
- Tell them that to be a leader, someone has to take a lead to show the right path, and be strong in the mind. It could be them taking the lead in the relationship (requires self confidence)
- If positive feedback is 5 times, the negative feedback can be only one time- Remind them of the 5:1 ratio in feedback…(Honesty and wisdom are friends here!)
- For older siblings, it takes the shape of suggestions, bringing back the old memories and elements of caring and sentiments.
This could be natural to a lot of children, but needs to be taught for some. The philosophy grounded through parents role modeling the goodness- is of foundational importance, I know! That said, I have seen that extra effort in guiding our young ones adds value. I hope this checklist brings focus to the resilience in sibling relationships at hand..when you are thinking of this topic.
PS. The above checklist is to build goodwill, a source of strength, and problem solving or conflict resolution is a whole another issue!