10 Ways to Build Lasting Sibling Relationships (Part II)

Sisters are one of life’s greatest blessings. Graciously, God blessed me with four.

I fondly remember September 22, 2016, the day I attended a Piano Guys concert in Cedar Rapids, IA, with my sister Chelsy. Although we enjoyed the music, we most enjoyed the shared memories and conversation. Little did I know that 15 months later, the single sibling chapter of our lives would be finished, and the married one begun. As I reflect on that time, I’m reminded that we must all treasure sibling relationships today because they may change forever tomorrow.

All throughout my life, my sister Allison has blessed me with thoughtful, encouraging notes. I still remember her asking me about my spiritual walk when she took me out to Tuscan Moon in May 2013. She has always encouraged me to be the man God has called me to be.

I’m so thankful for my younger sisters as well.

Elizabeth (14) is creative artist and musician who is blossoming into a beautiful woman of virtue.

At 10 years-old, Rebecca is a cheerful songbird and a tenacious doer with an insightful perspective.

My relationship with my sisters is a God-given blessing and one of my most prized possessions.

In a world of a million distractions, strong, lasting sibling friendships do not occur by accident. They require time, thoughtfulness, and intentionality.

Last week, we examined “Seven Reasons to Build Lasting Sibling Relationships.” In this post, we’ll look at ten ways to strategically build sibling relationships. May these strategies motivate us to treasure our siblings every day.

1. Forgive

There were many times growing up when I was tempted to hold small grudges. It may have been resentment against the sibling who cleaned out the tube of toothpaste, the sibling who failed to put in more gas after running the car to empty, the sibling who thoughtlessly launched a verbal dart, or the sibling who took the last piece of chocolate cake.

Tiny seeds of bitterness threaten to destroy sibling relationships. Often, it’s not the big things, but the small acts of unthoughtfulness that hurt the most. Every day, we must remember that while we’re not responsible for what our sibling did to us, we are responsible for our own response to them.

The next time you’re tempted to hold a grudge, ask yourself, “Is this worth destroying the relationship?”

Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” We must forgive our siblings because Christ forgave us.

Truly, genuine Christ-like forgiveness begins in the home.

2. Serve Daily

God calls us to thoughtfully serve our siblings as He served others (John 13:1-14).

One afternoon, I went to the barn to milk and found that one of my brothers had kindly prepared the milkers in the milkhouse, bedded the cows with sawdust, and scraped the manure off the center barn aisle. These combined acts probably took no more than 10 minutes. Yet it was the thoughtfulness that touched me the most.

There are a thousand acts of kindness one sibling can do for another, from opening a door, to cleaning a room, to doing a chore, to preparing a treat. The key is selfless thoughtfulness.

As Paul said, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:4). Are you more focused on yourself or on your siblings?

Selfish siblings focus on ensuring their own needs are met. Selfless siblings focus on meeting the needs of their siblings (Matthew 20:26-28).

Will you look daily for opportunities to serve your siblings?

3. Always Use Kind and Thoughtful Words

Your words are one of your greatest tools to build up or tear down your siblings. Truly, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).

Words are only life-giving if packaged in thoughtful vocal tones and facial expressions.

You may think your words are kind, but if your tone and facial expressions are critical, your siblings will receive a critical message.

You can uplift or crush your siblings through a fuming or a pleasant tone of voice, through a sunny smile or a stormy frown.

In the words of J.R. Miller, “Friendships within the home require care and culture as do other friendships. We must win each other’s love inside the home just as we win the love of outside friends.”

How would your sibling conversations be different if you only used words, expressions, and vocal tones that built up your siblings?

4. Pray for Your Siblings

Prayer is a mighty tool in building sibling relationships.

Throughout my life, I have felt incredibly blessed every time one of my siblings told me they were praying for me. As I navigated college and courtship, the prayers of my siblings assured me that I was not alone.

Do you feel distant from a sibling? Do you experience strained sibling relationships? Maybe it’s because you haven’t prayed for your siblings enough.

When you pray for your siblings, you will find yourself more invested in their lives. You will begin to realize that God wants to use every single one of your siblings to glorify Him in a specific way.

After praying, ask a sibling, “What’s the Lord been doing in your life recently?” That question just might be a powerful conversation starter.

5. Discover Their Personality and Love Language

God created every sibling unique. It’s up to you to understand that uniqueness fully.

Does your sibling prefer acts of service, quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, or gifts? Often, it is a combination.

What is your sibling’s unique personality? You might consider looking up the Myers-Briggs, the Four Temperaments, or the DISC Assessment.

The more fully you understand your siblings the more fully you can serve them (Matthew 20:26-28).

How well do you understand your siblings?

6. Beware of Technology

We have friends who have made it a rule to always set their cell phones on a pile in the center of the table before eating.

As they realized, technology can destroy relationships.

Technology often distracts us. It easily hinders us from being fully present at every family meal and sibling conversation.

When your younger brother asks you to play with him, do you say “not right now” because you’re occuppied with another friend via texting or social media?

If techonology is destroying your sibling relationships, you might consider commiting to never use your phone while interacting with your siblings.

Do you value texting, social media, and web surfing or your sibling most? Which do you spend the most time with?

7. Intentionally Encourage One Sibling Each Day

Have you ever noticed a young person light up and smile after receiving a genuine compliment?

Unfortunately, we tend to only notice the negative things our siblings do. We rarely notice the positive.

How might your siblings grow if you committed to sharing one thoughtful encouraging word with one sibling each day?

It could be as simple as saying, “I appreciate your diligence with your school,” or “I admire the effort you make to spend time with God early each morning.”

Written notes can be just as powerful.

One intentional word each day can spark spiritual growth in the life of your sibling.

Thoughtful intentionality makes all the difference.

8. Listen Genuinely and Attentively

God purposefully gave us all one mouth and two ears. Unforunately, family conversations often more resemble a cut-throat competition for the floor than a balanced dialogue among equals.

Have you ever noticed a child trying to gain attention in a large group? Often, there are some who feel that they have no voice. In contrast, there are others who enjoy lengthy filibusters. Which one are you?

If you want to unlock the key to your brother or sister’s heart, you must attentively and genuinely listen. You must learn to ask thoughtful questions and then attentively listen.

Will you genuinely listen in every sibling conversation?

9. Do Fun Things with Your Siblings

I have fond memories of basketball, baseball, and football games with my brothers. There were many times when I would rather have read a good book. Yet I chose to play because I valued the relationship over the activity.

I also have great memories of working together with my siblings in farming and in music. Working together in both activities bonded us closer together by giving us a common purpose.

In building relationships finding common ground is key. Never ask, “Is ______ my favorite thing to do,” but rather, “will it build the relationship?” If it builds the relationship, it is always worthwhile.

Often my Dad will take one of my siblings with him on an errand or in the tractor or combine.

He has learned the importance of seizing every opportunity. Work, a run to the store, a road trip, or a concert, could all be opporunities to build relationships with your siblings.

10. Center Free Time and Evenings Around Family

We all want lasting sibling relationships. However, sibling relationships cannot be built without one vital ingredient–time. You need time, and lots of it.

Some of my best memories with my family come from leisure dinnertime conversations, overnight campouts with the brotherhood, baseball games played together in the evening, Saturday afternoon Risk games with my brothers, and Sunday evening popcorn seasoned with conversation.

None of these happened by accident. In order to find family time we had to selectively choose between competing church, social, and outside events.

We often see the needs outside our homes, but neglect the needs within. We must be careful to not commit to too many outside activities during our free time and evenings. Those blocks constitute the best times to invest in the ministry of family.

You are only with your family for a short season. If you still live at home, now is the time to strengthen those family bonds.

In the words of Theophrastus, “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” Be sure to spend adequate time with your family today so that you have no regrets tomorrow.

How much of your free time do you spend with your family? Are you willing to say yes to your family and no to outside pressures?

The Blessings of Deep Sibling Relationships

We’ve just unpacked 10 ways to build lasting sibling relationships. Every one of these requires time, thoughtfulness, and intentionality.

If you’ll invest in your siblings today, you’ll experience unimaginable lifelong and eternal rewards.

Imagine treasuring your siblings more than anyone in the world. Imagine spiritually encouraging and strengthening one another in 20 years. Imagine meaningful, harmonious family reunions in 40 years. Finally, imagine the eternal rewards of selflessly loving your siblings.

This can all happen, and much more, if you’ll commit to small, daily, strategic investments in your siblings. In so doing, not only are you investing in your siblings, you’re investing in God’s eternal kingdom.

Question: Which one of these points resonated with you the most?

Recommended resources:

Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends by Sarah, Stephen, and Grace Mally

A Father’s Reward  by Phil Downer and Jerry MacGregor

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Disclosure of Material Connection: The links in the above post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend books I personally have read and believe will add value to my readers. 

17 thoughts on “10 Ways to Build Lasting Sibling Relationships (Part II)

  1. This is such a blessing! This is my last year at home so I’m trying to make sure everything counts! I’ve had the amazing privilege to have 1 older brother, 6 younger sisters, and 3 younger brothers. I found it funny we had the exact opposite boy/girl ratio. Lol
    Thank you so much for taking time to write this, I truly needed to hear it! ~Katie

  2. I’m the oldest of going-to-be nine siblings. Though I find that maturing has lead to many controversies, I am finally realizing that I can have better relationships with my siblings. The road is still hard, but slow and steady I’m working on changing my relationship with them.

    1. Isaac,

      Keep up the good work! “And let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9).

      Know that God always rewards and blesses faithfulness. You have an incredible opportunity as the oldest of nine to shape and mold your siblings to become warriors for God’s kingdom. Your siblings are your greatest ministry. If you treasure that ministry opportunity every day, you will be amazed at the fruit in the years to come.

    2. I am the oldest of nine children, and I have experienced the same thing – maturing ahead of the others has lead to many controversies and trials for me. It is wonderful to see growth in their lives and the times when they stand for what’s right. I needed this post and need to make good relationships with them more of a priority.

  3. Joshua, Thanks for putting your time and effort into these posts. They are a great encouragement. Having ten sisters, I have learnt that the relationships between us as siblings are a huge blessing and it is something that I have personally taken for granted for many years. So thankful for family!

  4. Thank you! This is so important for all to hear/read!! 🙂
    I have 2 older sisters, & 1 younger sister. Sister are a spectacular blessing!! My older sister & I are super close, but she might be moving out within this year. Do you have any tips on how I can still contain the closeness I have with her when she moves out?
    Blessings,
    ~Mary

    1. Mary,

      Great question! Here are a few thoughts from my wife Cassidy.

      (1) Be intentional. Cassidy and her married sister schedule one day a week to talk over the phone or to do something fun together. They’ve found that it doesn’t happen unless they schedule it.

      (2) Take time to do special things for your older sister. It may be an encouraging text or note, a gift, a special date, etc.,

      (3) Hold each other accountable. You could about each other’s walk with the Lord, daily disciplines, or anything else. It’s important to be willing to ask each other the hard questions.

      If you already have a close relationship, it shouldn’t be too hard to maintain that relationship with intentionality.

      Keep up the good work!

  5. Great post, Joshua! I especially appreciated #4 (Praying for your siblings) and #7 (Intentionally encouraging every day).

    Prayer is super important in any aspect of life, but unfortunately I think it’s often the most-neglected of the spiritual disciplines among many Christians, and even when we do pray, it’s not usually at the top of our list to pray for our own families. It’s certainly an area that I need to grow more in!

    And I think #7 is a great way to invest in your sibling (or really any) relationships. Even if you have a busy schedule and don’t have much free time to do anything extravagant, a simple note or a kind word takes only a few moments – but may have a lasting impact! I’m definitely going to try to do that sort of thing more often!

    P.S. Would it be all right if I re-blogged this on https://onthehousetops.wordpress.com/?

  6. Josh, I have really enjoyed reading your blog and I wanted to thank you so much for writing this article about sibling relationships! That is something that has been on my mind recently- how to have better relationships with my siblings, and this was just what I needed. I have been following your family’s blog for about a year and the one thing that has stood out to me is how much love you have for each other and God. It is refreshing to see kids who love spending time with their family rather than with their friends! Thank you for your good example!!

    #3 is something I definetly need to work on with my family. Angry words can tear down a relationship so easily!

    Have a blessed day!
    Sarah

    P.S. I can’t wait to meet you and your family at one of your concerts in March! My family is counting down the days until March 2!!!

  7. Hey Josh,
    My brother and I have always been pretty close and gotten along well, but he’s moved out now with a family of his own. He lives far away and we don’t talk much with him being so busy with work and me with school. Do you have suggestions to keep our close relationship, and when we do talk….it not being a stale conversation? 🙂 Thanks for your blog, I enjoy reading it!

    1. Sally,
      Glad to hear that you that you have a close relationship!

      Two suggestions:
      (1) Make the most of the time you have by asking deep, meaningful questions. You could ask your brother about what the Lord’s been teaching Him through life, prayer, and the Word. When you do see your brother or talk to him, I would encourage you to focus on conversations that will challenge both of you in your walk with God.

      (2) Utilize technology. You could text, call, vox, or FaceTime as much as works for you and your brother. There are a lot of options if we just get creative.

      Thanks for your comment! It reminded me how I need to be more intentional with connecting with my three married siblings!

  8. Hey Bro,

    FANTASTIC post! I have so many good memories with you and the rest of our siblings; and I’m sure we will make many more in the future! Thanks for the encouraging post.

    Mitchell Bontrager

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