I don’t strive to always make my kids play nice, get along, or teach them that because they love each other that they must always like each other.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. You can lead a brain to evidence, but you can’t make it think. You can lead a heart to love, but you can’t make it feel.
I really try to teach my kids that healthy relationships aren’t always harmonious. Tension is normal and healthy. Siblings are not required to love or like each other. As a mother, I sincerely hope my kids love, like, and want to be close to each other. I can’t force that though.
So instead, I focus on encouraging my kids to have sincere, organic interactions that I don’t have to hover over to ensure everyone’s safety.
How do I do that? Well, I let them be mad at each other. I feel this is so important. Let them own their emotions. Reassure them that anger is normal and inevitable. Then remind them that it’s how one deals with anger that decides whether it’s healthy or not. It’s healthy for my 3 year to get mad at his sister for snatching his toy from his hands. It’s healthy for him to take it back from her and take it into a room to play away from her. He does not have to play with her. It’s NOT acceptable for him to hurt her because he is mad. It’s NOT healthy for me to step in, take the toy from both of them, and tell them, “Don’t be mad. You guys love each other,” insinuating that we can’t be mad at those we love.
Next, went they do play or interact, I let them own the interaction. My 3 year old loves to make the baby laugh like this:
But sometimes, the baby doesn’t laugh at any of his antics. I may suggest other things like peek a boo or a sound, but my 3 year old decides whether or not to do it.
Long story short, I try to let them have their own interactions outside of my control, only stepping in for safety or offering advice without controlling anyone’s actions except my own.