We are really working at creating a long lasting friendship between these two brothers. They are as different as night and day. In the parenting guide from Dr. Gary Ezzo, Growing Kids God's Way, he outlines some essential ways to prevent and combat sibling conflict. This has helped us to establish some positive habits to get our boys to be friends forever.
Right from the beginning, we have talked about the other brother as being the other's best friend. "He will be your friend forever and we want to treat our friend with our best don't we?" -Stuff like that. A big one that we are dealing with is curbing the tattling. Dr. Ezzo talks about how some tattling is healthy if it is for safety or for honest need for parental intervention or justice. The kind that comes from the intention of seeing the sibling get in trouble is considered sinful and needs to be dealt with immediately. He explains that when raising his kids, the one who tattled got more attention than the one that committed the crime, so to speak. Munch, being the personality that he is, will sometimes tattle on Bubblegum in order to make himself look better in our eyes. We do not stand for that. I have often reminded him that Bubblegum is supposed to be his ally, not his enemy, and that Mommy and Daddy do not appreciate him looking to get his little brother in trouble.
Another thing we really encourage is building one another up. When one brother does something cool or commendable, we encourage the other to verbally praise him. What they often want to do is compete and say, "Yah well, I am faster than that!" I think that there is place for healthy comptetiveness. However, we are trying to teach are boys to be Christ-like and that is to be a true servant, not wishing to be first over others.
It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not be served but to serve, and gave his life as a ransom for many. -Matthew 20:26-28
It seems to be such a contrast to the world around us and of course there is the fear that this will lead them to be walked all over by people. I will trust God with the results of that. There is nothing like seeing the big brother verbally praise the little one for something that he did. What is more wonderful, is the reaction of the one being praised. They stand just a little taller.
There are many "I'm sorries' in our house with a precocious 2 year old. The boys are expected to apologize for hitting or hurting, even by accident. We also have taught speaking forgiveness. Munch is so forgiving of his little brother. He will always forgive tearfully, even if it is a hockey stick to the face. Bubblegum still gets confused and will often say he's sorry and he forgives all in the same sentence. He knows those words are to be said but at this point I don't think who knows why and by whom.
A big thing we like to do is get the boys to work with and for each other. I am getting the two older boys to take more responsibility with the baby by helping with things like getting a new diaper for him, talking to him when he is needing attention, bringing him a blanket, toy or soother. I try to have them do work together and to help each other out with projects. It fosters a selflessness in them and creates a camaraderie that I pray will continue on forever.
It will be interesting to see how Baby Goo fits into this dynamic as he starts interacting with the other two. I see how my dad and his two brothers have remained friends and have actually become closer friends into their 60's and it encourages me that this forever friendship is possible, even if there are challenges and tensions throughout the years.
It's one of my favourite things, watching the boys interact. I am sure that it will only get more interesting and complex the older they get.