Tell Them You Love Them


Having trouble with your brother or sister? Try going for the heart instead of going for the throat.

Have you ever thought of trying to sell your sister? Sabotage your brother’s car? Pin your little brother down and cover his mouth with one hand, his nose with the other?

Maybe you use tactics more subtle, consisting only of verbal teasing or name calling. But that’s what brothers and sisters are for, right? After all, the commandment says to love thy neighbor as thyself, not thy brother.

There’s no doubt that sibling relationships can be rocky, and often there is an overwhelmingly strong need to tease. To avoid such contention and to make your home peaceful, here are eight ways to love thy brother—oops, brother—or sister, while they are not loving you.

Adapt

Some younger brothers and sisters have problems getting along with their older siblings because they lack the maturity of other family members.

When Steve was fifteen, his nine-year-old brother, Brian, became his shadow. Like many younger brothers, Brian was curious about his older brother’s world and wanted to be a part of it. Steve resented having a tag-along. Teasing Brian, running away from him, and calling him names didn’t solve anything. Brian was too persistent.

Steve worked out this problem accidently. His family went on vacation. Lacking older companions, he was forced to spend time with just Brian, doing activities Brian could do. He taught him how to turn his mitt the right way when catching a ball, how to put a worm on a hook, how to break the water with his hands when diving. It was this type of participation Brian really wanted in the first place.

Back home, when Steve was busy, he could peacefully do things without Brian by promising to spend time with him later. Steve realized his little brother’s needs could not be changed; but he learned to adapt to and deal with them in a way that made both brothers happier. Brian, also, seemed to understand that there were things which Steve did that he could not yet do.

Compromise

There will be times, however, when adapting to a sibling’s behavior is not enough. Simply avoiding or ignoring your brother or sister may not work when you feel your basic rights as a person are being overlooked. For Doug and Brent, the TV was a constant source of conflict. Both tended to be possessive of the television, always changing channels without asking. A channel-changing war inevitably ensued every time they sat down to watch the television. The fight would soon be blown out of proportion, and the two brothers were often at each other’s throats—literally—over a TV show.

Since the family owned one television, their behavior affected everyone. Occasionally, the boys made compromises, but they were temporary and soon forgotten. A long-term solution was needed.

This came in the form of a preplanned TV schedule decided on by the entire family at the start of each week. Mom and Dad limited the viewing hours and made sure the “TV menu” was fair for all. Brent and Doug’s fighting eventually stopped because they were often reminded of the schedule and the new compromise.

Respect Differences

Compromising on differences will reduce some of the sibling strife. God creates only unique individuals—no two alike. Differences are not always respected. For example, Cathy was very much involved in student government and scholastic endeavors. Her sister, Barbara, was a cheerleader and a member of her high school’s volleyball and track teams. A barrier built up between the sisters as each looked upon their own activities as being most important. Each downgraded the activities the other enjoyed. Barbara loved to dance; Cathy thought a movie was better. Barbara loved loud, upbeat music; Cathy was more into relaxing tunes.

Instead of comparing themselves to each other and thinking the other’s interests weren’t worthwhile, they eventually began to search for the less obvious things they had in common. Both enjoyed stake dances. Both liked jogging. Both hated washing the car. They learned to accept and respect their differences and to encourage each other to excel in their individual pursuits.

Talk with a “Referee”

When differences between you and your siblings become great and talking with them is out of the question, it is time to ask for help. You may need a parent, your bishop, or some other adult you both trust as an objective third party. Instead of taking sides, this person acts like a football referee, making sure the discussion is fair and beneficial. Talking in this way helps you discover what the problem really is and how you can solve it.

David and Jenny finally confronted each other with a “referee” and learned how to solve their disagreements. They fought often because neither respected the other’s privacy. Jenny would borrow from David without asking and eavesdrop on his conversations. David read Jenny’s private letters and journals. They frustrated and upset their family with their arguing.

Together and sometimes alone, they met frequently with the “referee.” She helped them discover their feelings about themselves and each other by acting as a moderator while they did the talking. In the end, they learned how to respect one another and to resolve disagreements.

Try the Unexpected

Compromising and learning respect work for the most part, but some situations are solved by an unexpected response.

For example, your little brother always manages to infuriate you by talking or playing loudly while you read or study. If his purpose is to make you angry and frustrated, instead of satisfying him, try surprising him and say, “Hey, you’re really funny when you do that.” He may lose interest when he discovers he can’t upset you.

Reframe

You can learn to look at a sibling’s behavior in a different way. Butch loved to tease, and his pet name for his younger sister was “Brutus.” His sister’s earliest memory of this name is a tape recording:

“Hi. My name is Katie Ald—”

“Brutus.”

“Butch. My name is Katie—”

“Brutus!”

“Stop it!”

“I’m calling the dog.”

“My name is—”

“Brutus!”

Katie’s entire child and teenage life was haunted by this name. With the encouragement of her parents, she ignored it as much as she could and when she couldn’t, she pretended it was meant as a compliment, a term of endearment. By the time her brother left on his mission, it really was an affectionate nickname. This is called reframing. Katie learned to look at the name in a different way.

The Golden Rule

In dealing with your brothers and sisters, it is also important to remember the familiar scripture: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matt. 7:12). In other words, “the Golden Rule.”

Siblings often take each other for granted. And no wonder. It’s a challenge treating your brothers and sisters like real people. But try to remember that they are. Their feelings are just as real as yours.

Tracy forgot about the Golden Rule when her sister Tara became sick and missed a few days of school. Tracy was jealous of the extra attention and care Tara received. She reacted by ignoring Tara. Several hours without her favorite friend’s company, however, made Tracy realize she should be giving Tara the most attention. “I finally put myself in Tara’s shoes,” Tracy said. “I would feel terrible if she treated me the way I was treating her.” Tracy played quiet games with Tara and told her of the day’s events at school.

More importantly, a person needs to continue to follow the Golden Rule when siblings aren’t sick or in need of extra care. A few friendly gestures from you might change your brothers’ and sisters’ attitudes towards you, too. Just being thoughtful of your siblings’ feelings is a good start. Try to move on to acts of service—make your brother’s bed when he’s in a hurry or leave a note of encouragement for a sister who has a big test at school coming up. But don’t be discouraged if these actions don’t immediately change the relationship.

The I-Love-You-Rule

Finally, although the scripture says to love thy neighbor, don’t forget the countless scriptures concerning your brother. For example, “He that loveth his brother abideth in the light” (1 Jn. 2:10). Love is the key word. It is amazing how often brother and sisters neglect to tell each other that they do really love them.

It is wrong to assume your brother already knows you love him so you don’t need to tell him. Let your love be shown by good deeds; however, let it also be expressed verbally. The most important thing Jenny learned was how to say, “David, I love you.” Even Steve, afraid of sounding “corny” at first, found that reminding Brian that he loved him made it easier to get along. “The more time I spent alone with him, the easier it was to say,” Brian says.

Butch wishes he hadn’t waited until his mission to establish a friendship with Katie. “I missed my whole family at first, but it was ‘Brutus’ that I missed my whole mission. I couldn’t wait to see her.”

Learn to be friends now. Respect your brothers and sisters now, even if it seems like they are not loving you. Tell them that you love them.

[illustration] Lettering by James Fedor

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh