Let me first say that when my husband reads the title of this article, he is liable to spit his coffee out all over the screen. I had five boys in eight years and my home is not exactly harmonious. In fact, just yesterday I had to say, “In our family, we do not chase each other with a fist threatening to punch each other.” But I’m trying. I’m trying, people, and since I started implementing a few of these ideas about a year ago, I have seen some serious improvement! I’m hopeful that with time, consistency and a whole lot of prayer, I will continue to see their relationships develop into friendships.
Limit friend time: Friendships are important, as is learning to be a friend. However, I can tell you that at least one of my children would choose to play with a friend his own age over his little brothers 100 percent of the time. See what happens when you start limiting that friend time to certain days or hours a week. I have found that boredom will start to set in. Then, suddenly, when there is no one else to play with but that pesky little brother or sister, they will start making the most of it and having fun together.
Share a bedroom: This is easier for me because I have all boys — finally, something that is easier about having five boys — but I did share a room with my brother for the first several years of my life and I have fond memories of it. My older three share a room now and regularly have what they call “comedy time,” where one of them has a flashlight that they shine on their face and make jokes largely involving poop. I tell them to be quiet, they whisper and giggle behind my back as I walk out. They are building friendships and a sense of being a team. When we go somewhere as a family now, they will always choose to sleep in the same room versus having a room of their own. Give it a try.
Give them individual attention: Keep it simple. Take one kid with you to the grocery store, to a restaurant for a soda, or a quick game of Uno in your bedroom. The more I invest in them as individuals, making them feel heard and seen and loved for who they are, the more they are happy to be “one of the crowd” the rest of the time. My boys share a room, as I mentioned above, but no matter how busy the day is, I take the time to give each boy a short individual “tuck in.” Scratch their back, say a prayer, ask them a few questions about their day, kiss their cheeks, sing a song, whatever they might like for a minute or two and fill up that little love tank before sleep. Then get out of there and enjoy your Netflix.
Get them involved in helping each other: Every Sunday, my oldest son helps my middle son with his homework. I would like to say that this is out of the goodness of his heart, but it is definitely on his chore list.
However, I’ve noticed the pride he takes in helping his little brother. I’ve noticed his little brother smiling at him adoringly as he is reading him a book. They may just be doing a chore together, but it is deepening their relationship. See what you can do to have the older one help the younger one, even if it is just zipping up a jacket or getting him a cup for water. Tell the older one how proud you are of them and how amazing it is that they are older and can do those things. Play it up!
Hope for the best: When all else fails, and we are having a rough day of tattles and fights and tears, I just keep hoping that one day they will forget this rough stuff and hang on to the good. I text a friend whose husband had many brothers, or my sister who also has five boys, and hear their tales of woe that have become family legends and things to laugh about at Christmas. We are all just trying our best here and that is the best we can do.