One desire that I have always had is for my children to be close to one another…for their whole lives. I suppose every parent has this desire but over the years of parenting , I have learned that moms are hugely influential in seeing this goal to be accomplished or never realized.

There are several different ways that moms can foster closeness and loyalty between her children but I am going to just zero in on a specific one today which is the practice of minimizing critcism and maximizing praise. What I mean by that is that as children in a family are growing up, it is just a given that there will be many squabbles between them. In our house full of boys, many times the “squabbles” culminated in some physical fist fights where some blood was drawn and egos bruised. Did that devastate and shock me? Hardly…I was not too terribly phased by that nor did I think it was the worst thing in the world. The fact that I took this all in stride may be directly attributed perhaps to the fact that I was raised with five brothers who mixed it up with each other on an almost daily basis so I was pretty accustomed to a rowdy household. I have a brother that is three years older than me and then twin brothers who were just seventeen months older than that brother. Then my two older brothers were just three and five years older than the twins which makes for five boys within seven years of each other. That makes for an interesting and wild time to say the least. Trust me when I tell you that I stood frozen and plastered against many a wall in  my childhood home as the punches were flying. I was fearful that if I moved or leaned forward too much, I just might catch an unintended fist so I know all about lots of testosterone raging under one roof.

When I became a mom of three boys then, I almost felt like I was prepared to cope with the level of mayhem that was sure to abound. Some days I did better than others. One thing that I attempted to do however was to minimize the hostility that they felt for each other, and maximize the love and loyalty that they indeed felt, but did not often show. I never suggest doing this in the heat of battle, because no kid wants to hear warm and fuzzy things about the brother who just socked him in the stomach, but I would always try to talk up the positive once things calmed down. It might be later in the evening after an altercation or even the next day, but I would attempt to find a time to casually mention something positive that one of my sons had said about the other. When they were little, it might be something as simple as saying to my youngest son Matty…”Ben said that you were awesome in the football game on the street yesterday…he said you were way better than all of the older kids.” Matty may have just been clobbered by Ben a few hours earlier but his ears still perked up when he heard that his older bro had been bragging on him like that. He would say “ Really?”  and I would say “absolutely” and then just walk off and let him bask in the glow of knowing what his brother said about him. I would not lie or make things up either…any compliment that I repeated had indeed been said.

Sadly I sometimes see parents doing the exact opposite. They will make statements favorably comparing one sibling over the other, or they will repeat or emphasize a negative remark that has been made. I see this happening a lot with familes of adult children even more so than families in which the children are still small. I have occasionally heard fellow mothers repeating a negative comment to one of her children that had been made to her by another of her children. Many times the mom is just casually making conversation , not intending to create distance or strife between her adult children yet that is what occurs even though the mother probably did not intend for that to be the result.

I just have tried to make a concerted effort to foster closeness between my children with every opportunity that I get to do so. If one of my children makes a positive observation about another one and comments on it, I make it a point to repeat that compliment to the person that it was said about. I make a huge deal about it….I just want that specific child of mine , even if they are adults now to know how highly their siblings think of them. Conversely, I try to not ever repeat negative comments or criticisms as that will only create a resentment or distance between my kids that I don’t want to see. Do I always follow this rule and am I perfect at it? Definitely not, but I work hard at it. The reason that I do is that one of the greatest joys that a parent can have as they see their children become adults is to see a close bond between them. Ask any parent of adult children and they will agree.

I know that this is common sense type stuff but the bottom line is sometimes we neglect to do that which seems to be so obvious. Lots of moms and dads know that this makes sense yet they find themselves talking about the frustrations and faults of one child with another and the outcome is never closeness but almost always estrangement.

Do you want your children to be as “thick as thieves” as the saying goes? Then don’t rob them of their faith and loyalty to each other and instead give them the gift of shared praise and worthiness. You will not regret it if you do!