Loyal: faithful to one's sovereign, government, or state, faithful to one's oath, commitments, or
obligations, faithful to any leader, party, or cause, or to any person or thing conceived as
deserving fidelity, characterized by or showing faithfulness to commitments, vows,
allegiance, obligations, etc.
The world tells us that for our children to pull away from us, from their siblings, and lean into their friendships outside of our families is normal. I guess that is true. But I've never like normal. Sin is normal. Selfishness is normal. Loyalty, though, is not normal. Therefore I want loyalty to be a significant character trait in my children. How do we encourage it?
For one thing, I have to be sure I am modeling it. Am I pushing my kids aside to spend more and more time with friends? Am I online, chatting and posting, telling my children "not now" or "go play outside because Mom is busy?" It is easy to fall into that. I must realize I am the primary example they will look to as they are growing up and learning how to relate to others.
I have noticed that when my kids spend significant time away from one another, they fight more. When they were in school it was very apparent. Summer would begin and they would start to get along again. As summer ended I would lament it's passing because I knew the busyness of the hamster wheel would tear them apart again. It always did. So I will say that homeschooling has helped us in this area significantly, but my kids are still human and they can easily hurt a sibling's feelings by not standing up for one another or telling them to "scram" because they have a friend over.
Several years ago, we decided to enforce the notion that family is first. Friends will come and go, but family is forever. The book "Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends" by Grace, Sarah, and Stephen Mally addresses this beautifully. In essence, they write that friendships are like a sprint, sibling relationships are marathons. It is easy to maintain "niceness" with friends because your time together is limited to hours and then someone eventually has to go home. But sibling relationships are long term, require endurance, and often involve pain that has to be pushed through in order to finish the race well.
Here is how it plays out for us: If a child is having a difficult time being kind to someone in the family, then when a friend knocks or calls wanting to play the answer is "no." If a friend comes over and a sibling wants to be around them (within reason, of course) then, as long as that sibling is not disrupting or causing angst they should be allowed to be a part of what they are doing. For instance, if my oldest is playing the X-box with a friend and his younger brother wants to watch, there is no reason why that can't happen. If my daughter has a friend over and they are putting on makeup, it is absolutely expected that she can take a moment to brush gloss on her little sister's lips as well. Just be nice.
Another important angle is that of protecting one another. If a friend comes over and is unkind to a sibling, I fully expect the older sibling to protect the younger. If they have a difficult time doing so themselves, then come get me or Dad. I will have no problem explaining how we are expected to treat one another in our home to the friend. I'll be nice, but I will not let my kids be mistreated in their own home. My children, all of them, need to know that our home
So, how about you? What are some ways you teach loyalty to your children? These are just the tip of the iceberg and loyalty, of course, goes way beyond the confines of our homes. I would love to know how this plays out in your life and the lives of your kids!