The Gift of Siblings

Peter, Amanda, Paul, Ben, and Faith

When Paul, number 8 in our lineup, was a toddler, his older siblings alternated between spoiling him rotten and then being irritated that he was spoiled rotten. At those points, our oldest daughters frequently proclaimed, “Paul needs a baby brother!” In His kindness, the Lord gave Paul just that when Ben was born. (And yes, Ben also tries to make much of the caboose role, so we have to work on him in different ways.)

Every parent with more than one child has seen the wonderful gifts that come from siblings. By
dwelling with other little (or not so little) persons day after day, sharing space, toys, computers, bathrooms, and parental attention, siblings help rub off rough edges from one another. As they have disputes, they learn about the nature of their hearts and their need for the Savior. As you work with them to love their brothers and sisters rather than give in to their selfish desires, they learn the world doesn't revolve around themselves.

But one of the sweetest benefits that comes from siblings are the rich friendships that so often develop. With many brothers and sisters, there is almost always someone with whom to play Legos, listen to music, ride bikes, or just talk to. Our teens, the middle kids, are now 15, 16, 18, and 19. Yes, life was crazy when they were little. (It still is, actually!) But it is so much fun watching these four together, whether playing table tennis (they use full sized tennis racquets and a tennis ball over a hymnals “net” on the kitchen table) or just chilling in the living room.

Siblings are good for kids. Some of the benefits are obvious, but others not so much. Colin Brazier, a U. K. newscaster and father of six, in his spare time pours over scientific research on siblings. He's found some rather surprising things showing up in the research literature. In a recent article titled “Why Having Big Families is Good For You (AndCheaper)" published in the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph, Mr. Brazier reports researchers are finding:

  • Siblings provide some protection against hay fever, eczema, food allergies, multiple sclerosis, and even some cancers. (Strangely, the same does not hole true for children exposed to other little ones in non-family group settings such as day care.)

  • Obesity is lower in children with siblings. According to one study, each additional sibling lowers the likelihood by 14%. (OK – I know the mechanism here! The more children in a family, the more food competition! At least that's how it works in my house.)

  • Siblings lower the occurrence of depression

  • Children with siblings have “stronger soft skills and keener emotional intelligence than single children.” (Soft skills include social graces, friendliness, and communication abilities)

  • Kids with brothers and sisters are better at gratification deferment (No kidding?)

  • Children with siblings learn to learn to walk and talk earlier 

  • Adult children find it easier to care for their elderly parents when they have siblings (I can attest to this one. Sharing concerns and care for my mother with my four siblings helped all of us during her last years.)

  • Children with many siblings face less likelihood of being smothered by helicopter parents. (Or, as I learned about at Peter's college orientation, the newest menace: “Snowplow Parents.” These parents plow through any difficulties so their darlings won't have to face obstacles.)
These two have always been best friends

Mr. Brazier found so many interesting aspects to siblings along with the pressures for parents not to produce them, that he's written a book called Sticking Up For Siblings: Whose Deciding the Size of Britain’s Families? It's due out next month.


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