Ah, sibling rivalry, famous for making family life tumultuous and for slowly chipping away at a mother’s sanity. Siblings seem to have the potential for being great comrades in addition to fierce foes. Experts say that your sibling relationships will be the longest that you have in your lifetime, outlasting your parents, friends and mate.
That’s a crazy important and significant relationship when you think about it.
As a mother of two young daughters (ages 4 and 2 with a third daughter on the way), who also happens to be an only child, I’m fascinated by the dynamics of siblings. Since I have no siblings, I really have no “history” to base my presumptions on what it would be like to mother siblings.
As a kid, I was so desperate to have a sibling. I had wild and far-fetched fantasies of what it would be like to have a familial partner in crime. In my head, it was all rainbows and unicorns, ice cream and sleepovers, laughter and friendship. Now as an adult, I know this was extremely shortsighted.
Like most moms, I really want to encourage my kids to have the best relationship possible. So, when I read the back blurb of the book Siblings Without Rivalry: How to help your children live together so you can live too, I was intrigued:
Award-winning authors Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish refused to accept the idea that constant teasing, tattling, and battling is the price that must be paid for having more than one child. Drawing on their own experience and the hundreds of workshops they conducted throughout the country, the authors have developed simple yet astonishingly effective ways to reduce conflict and generate goodwill between siblings. Each skill is illustrated by the thoughts and stories of real parents.
The blurb had me at “effective ways to reduce conflict and generate goodwill between siblings.” Could my childhood dreams of unicorns and rainbows between siblings really happen for my kids? I wanted to find out.
(I should also add that I am one of those weirdos that obsessively reads Amazon reviews on everything from books to baby wipes; this book also had glowing Amazon reviews.)
My overall thoughts
I loved this book.
I appreciated the loads of practical advice and real-life examples of what to do with your kids to deter conflict. I was riveted by the adult-sibling testimonials of how the roles their parents put them in as kids were still playing out in adulthood – wow. Also, I loved the authors’ non-preachy approach to giving parenting advice. There was no “magic-bullet” theory and the authors come off as collaborators rather than being “almighty” know-it-alls. (Which, sadly, is not the case for many parenting experts.)
My one criticism would be its appropriateness for the age group of my kiddos – 2 and 4-years-old. This really isn’t in Faber and Mazlish’s control, as there is only so much reasoning you can do with a 2-year-old. 😉 Still, even my 2-year-old was receptive to the techniques.
Quick takeaways | What’s working for us
Don’t label or put your kids into roles. This means even positive labels that you think are going to be uplifting. (i.e., “He’s our athletic one.” “She’s the reliable one.”) Roles are bad and put pressure on a child/person to have to live up to them. They also make the other child(ren) feel bad. They recommend focusing on specific behaviors or accomplishments when complimenting, rather than making grand-sweeping generalizations.
Have your kids work out their conflicts on their own. Say what? I thought this was crazy when I first read it. This could never work with a 4 and 2-year-old because I just assumed they were too young. Not so. When I direct either of my kids to talk it out (and the majority of the time they are fighting over toys at this point) they are both surprisingly responsive. (Of course, mom and dad are still supposed to get involved if it becomes abusive or physical, and the authors give tips for this, too.)
Equal is less. And not to mention it’s next to impossible to treat your kids equally all the time. Plus, their perception of equality is often skewed. The authors recommend treating children uniquely rather than equally. (i.e., Instead of saying, “I love you the same as your sister,” say, “You are the only ‘you’ in the whole wide world. No one could ever take your place.”)
Good question. I’m still in the beginning stages of implementing the authors’ techniques and I imagine l’ll be thumbing back through its pages in the years to come. I’m interested to read some of Faber and Mazlish’s other bestselling books, like How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen so Kids will Talk.