Siblings Without Rivalry, Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlich
I have no idea where the recommendation came from for his book, but it was a good one!
Some of you will be dealing with major sibling rivalry issues in your homes whether it is toddlers not coping with new babies, teens picking at each other non-stop, or kids causing actual physical harm to each other. For others it may not be a current live issue. Either way this book is worth reading for all parents who have or hope to have more than one child.
Faber and Mazlich have written a clear, quick to read book with lots of practical ideas and suggestions. It was originally written in 1987, but a review and addendum have been added in the 2012 version. It is all still very relevant today.
They have written it to mirror a series of workshops they held, so each chapter addresses a specific topic, describing it with specific examples; then shares ways for parents to manage it including details and suggestions; and then gives feedback from parents as they tried to implement the ideas.
Some of the key ideas were:
- Help children to identify & acknowledge their feelings they have, and then validate these feelings. Enabling a child to identify anger, rejection, isolation, unfairness, etc, and showing we understand can take a lot of heat out of emotional responses. Part of this is helping children find words for emotions, not downplaying or overemphasising the emotions they have, and assisting them to find helpful and constructive ways to manage them.
- Avoid comparisons between children. Both praise and discipline can be dealt with without comparison to anyone else. Praise a child for their achievement in an area because they have learnt something as part of growing up. Call them to a standard of behaviour because that’s how we live in this family (not because their brother does it well).
- Avoid assigning roles. Parents, siblings and children all can assign family members to roles – the baby of the family, the smart one, the musical one, the artistic one, the responsible one. Some children take on the roles they are assigned with burden, others flee the roles they are given, but most roles run the risk of pigeonholing a child’s character or opinion about themselves: “I am not the smart one”, “I have to be the responsible one”, etc, without showing them the opportunities they could have if they saw themselves differently.
- How to deal with fighting. Essentially this was about giving children the skills to solve their problems between themselves, while laying down family groundrules for behaviour, and ensuring no one is in physical or emotional danger.
The emphasis on personal stories, anecdotes and cartoon illustrations makes the application come alive for the reader, as you immediately think how you could implement the same concepts in your family. Also, many of the examples and illustrations are from adults reflecting on their own childhood and the sibling rivalry issues they experienced. The memories of these times remain strong well into the adult years. We should all think about our own childhood experiences in these areas and how it affects the way we parent our children on the same issues.
I came away from it with some personal challenges:
- To keep prioritising one-on-one time with each child.
- To keep having family discussion regularly – a family meeting time.
- To beware of casting our children into roles.
- To work at validating their feelings rather than succumbing to the temptation to gloss over them.
This reads as a bit of a dry review (the older our kids get the less keen I am to include specific examples from our family as I don’t feel I am honouring them by revealing our own family details), but I assure you the book is anything but dry, it’s full of anecdotes and sensible, easy to implement ideas. If you have kids, you and they will benefit from you reading this one!