To cultivate good sibling relationships, children must understand the expectations for their behavior. In our home that expectation is one verse: Ephesians 4:32.
Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just as God forgave you in Christ.
(I like the NCV version because the word ‘loving’ is easier to understand for young children than other translations with words such as compassionate or tender.)
This is one of the first verses my children memorize. In all their sibling interactions they are held up to this standard. It’s so simple, there aren’t lists of dos and don’ts to keep up with. There is only one question: are you being kind and loving? If not, forgive each other and try again.
The question brings the responsiblity to the child. Rather than Mom saying, “We don’t hit, we don’t yell, we don’t take…” asking the question, “is that kind and loving?” forces the child to stop and think about the behavior. Then the next question is, “what would be a kind and loving way to handle the situation?” It brings about a discussion and allows the child to be responsible to help find the solution.
Younger children will need more direction and less discussion than older kids. Simple and direct is the best option. When my toddler is being mean to her siblings, rather than asking her questions I say, for example, “Taking is not kind and loving. Give the toy back to your brother and ask him, ‘When you finish with that toy may I have a turn?'” This teaches children from a young age that the expectation is kind and loving treatment of siblings, it also gives them concrete examples of behavior that is kind and loving.