Better Stories for Helping Your Kids Get Along

07 Charles reading the spider book to JackHow do you help your kids get along with each other? That may feel like an overwhelming question. Bickering between brothers and sisters can feel like one of the hardest, most relentless parts of parenting. But it’s not just the fighting. It’s also the more subtle selfishness where each kid looks out only for themselves. It starts early on: you sit down to feed your newborn, and her two-year old sibling immediately begs to sit on your lap at that precise time, even though to that point he was happily playing on his own.

How do we encourage our kids to be selfless toward each other? Generous with each other? To want what’s best for their siblings? Simply put, how do we encourage our kids to be friends?

Part of what we need to do is give them a better story. As Keith preached on Sunday, our hearts are shaped by the stories we hear and tell. That’s true at the big level for the story of our lives and believing God’s big gospel story. But it’s also true at a small level. So to put it very concretely, are there stories that we can tell our kids to give them that better story of sibling friendship?

When our oldest was in pre-school, we were given a book series revolving around a boy named Harry. Our son was drawn to these books. Harry was his age and imaginative and fun. The illustrations were captivating, the writing clever. But unfortunately, Harry was a nightmare. In almost every book he and his sister Sam fought, which often climaxed with them calling each other stupid.

I remember sitting there as a young mom and reading these for the first time out loud. I started ad-libbing something like, “Harry was really mean to his sister, and his mom had to take him and discipline him.” Any experienced listener would have known that I had totally changed the actual verbiage. Thankfully, my three-year old was not experienced! Eventually we decided that these books weren’t telling a better story, and despite their strengths, we got rid of them.

Instead we’ve tried to find books that show really sweet brother/sister relationships where they look after each other, show each other patience, and just generally present a team approach to siblinghood. Here is one series and two stand-alone books which are family favorites:*

 

  1. Charlie and Lola Series

You may have run into this brother-sister duo through television, but the series is based off Lauren Child’s popular children’s book series. Our family has really enjoyed these books largely because of how the older brother, Charlie, shows patience with his younger sister Lola who constantly is messing something of his up, getting something wrong, or just needs gentle correction. The illustrations are really engaging, including even how the text is sometimes tilted and laid out creatively.

  1. Dogger

This stand-alone book by Shirley Hughes is in the running for my favorite children’s book. A pre-school boy has lost his prized stuffed animal, Dogger. The whole family searches everywhere, but the climax is when his older sister sacrifices the prize that she won in a race in order for her younger brother to re-claim Dogger. This book appeals to more than just pre-schoolers. It’s gotten dusty in the room for both my husband and me when we read about a sister’s love for her younger brother. This book will resonate with any family that knows the importance of a prized sleep toy or blanket, and the sibling sacrificial love adds to the sweetness.

  1. Owl Babies

This shorter stand-alone book by Martin Waddell tells the tale of three owl babies waiting for their mother to return from getting them food. The encouragement of the older owl siblings to the younger owl is heart-warming and presents a united team-like front of siblings. Our kids love it when we change the names from Sarah, Percy, and Bill to their names. We also have used this book for times when our kids are struggling with being left with a sitter, pre-school, or church with the encouragement that mommy will come back. [This book could be a difficult read for a child in foster care or even adopted, so parents in those situation may want to pre-screen to see if it is a good fit for their family.]

These books have been a joy to our whole family. When I pull them out to read to my four-year-old, it is not unusual for the older siblings, including my ten-year-old, to cock their ears and listen as well, fondly remembering them from years back.

Of course there’s a lot more to sibling friendship than just reading good books to them. But let’s make sure that as we instruct them, coach them, and correct them, that we’re also firing their imagination and helping them see a better story of friendship.

*Because this time in my life was spent overseas, many of these books originate in the UK but can be purchased here in the US as well. You will just need to be prepared for the UK spellings and word choice at times!

One Comment

  1. I had to laugh about your parenting edits to the Harry books. Been there, done that. 😉 Love these read-aloud suggestions for giving our kids a better story. Thanks, Erin!

Leave a Reply