Siblings Without Rivalry

“Siblings will fight” seems to something we’ve simply come to accept as a society, just like “Babies don’t sleep at night” and “Pregnancy is terrible”. Often the relationship between us and our siblings is completely different than the relationship of our kids and their siblings simply because of the difference in age, gender dynamics, and of course the difference in the parenting. I’m a weird person that considers my brother one of my best friends, and always have. I was intrigued by Siblings Without Rivalry because I wanted to know what I could do to help my two young boys thrive together. The book most definitely didn’t disappoint! Here are 5 quick lessons I learned from Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

  1. Kids are selfish… it’s necessary, scientifically speaking 

The authors playfully compare having a new sibling in the household with your spouse gaining a younger, cuter, spouse that will live with you. The jealousy and resentment is almost automatic, especially because they will get to spend so much intimate time your precious spouse, you can’t help but feel like you’ve been left on the wayside. This helps us empathize with our children, it’s exactly how they feel. 

“Security lies within having all of mommy I love daddy all of the toys, all of the food, all the space.”

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish – Siblings Without Rivalry

Human beings make many other species on planet earth have a build in survival mechanism that makes us attached to our parents.we have an innate desire to be attached to our parents, almost selfishly. The authors of Siblings Without Rivalry stress the parents important role in fostering a healthy relationship between the kids. Love isn’t like pie! It’s not like there’s a limited amount of love and not enough to go around. The book details ways parents can reassure their children that they’re loved in very unique and special ways.

2. Get to the source!

Brothers and sisters need to have their feelings about the other acknowledged. This sounds like it comes from a page of a Janet Lansbury book on Respectful parenting. Human beings, even kids, have the ability to think and feel, the diversity of ways in which those thoughts and feelings manifest themselves is what makes us so interesting.

“Insisting on Good feelings between the children lead to bad feelings. Acknowledging bad feelings between the children, led to good feelings. A circuitous route to sibling harmony, and yet the most direct.”

3. Let people feel things

We don’t need to be neurologists to understand that stifling emotions, of any kind, is a mistake. The detrimental effects of silencing crying or expressions of frustration include the children believing that their feelings shouldn’t be happening at all. The authors, similarly to Brené Brown, speak about all emotions being related, and if we cover up and silence the unpleasant ones, the positive ones get affected as well. Instead, Siblings Without Rivalry wall parents through effective scenarios for navigating the tumultuous waters of strong emotions. We can help our kids learn to process their emotions in healthier ways, silencing them is usually for our own convenience, not theirs

4. The perils of comparison/ thief of joy

Without any help from us, children are naturally competitive. But what are some ways we contribute to that? 

“Never compare yourself to others, you’ll become either vain or bitter” stay away from comparison, it can only bring unhappiness.

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish – Siblings Without Rivalry

Instead, Siblings Without Rivalry encourages readers to describe what they see and what you like and don’t like about what they see. They urge us not to compare and to stick with the issues of the one child’s behavior, without bringing to their siblings. Even a favorable comparison could be harmful. We often compare when we’re mad or frustrated as well which sort of weaponizes the act. Let it go! 

“Let’s be weary of statements like ‘he’s the musician in the family, she’s the scholar, he’s the athlete, she’s the artist. No child should be allowed to corner the market on any area of human endeavor. We want to make it clear to each of our children that the joys of scholarship, dance, drama, poetry, sport, are fit everyone? And not reserved for those who have a special aptitude.”

5. Don’t Label the kids!

The authors of Siblings Without Rivalry urge us not to paint our kid in a corner. Think of the labels that have been put on you, how inaccurate and simplistic they were, how they were often associated with a mistake you’ll never live down, and how much resentment it continues to fill you with when the wise crack of the family decides to bring it up at the reunion in your adult life. Don’t allow it in your house! Yes, everyone had special abilities, but no human being is that simple. It seems like a term of endearment to some, but resentment is inevitable, and it puts a ton of pressure on kids. For example if there’s a child you’ve labeled “the responsible one” often when they break the rules (which they will) the reaction of the parents is greater and filled with more disappointment and reprimand than it would for the other child labeled the “troublemaker” doing the exact same thing. Allow space for the kids to be whole people. 

Siblings Without Rivalry is a great resource! Disclaimer: No book can be reduced to 5 simple lessons. This isn’t even scratching the surface here. The authors of the book also tackle physical and verbal abuse during kids, the complex dynamics of children with disabilities, and so much more. Do yourself a favor and give the book a read.

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