Monday, April 11, 2016

Book Recommendation: Siblings Without Rivalry

When we traveled to Flagstaff for Spring Break, the bickering between our boys hit an all-time high. I was at my wits-end and needed an immediate next step (that’s how I deal with stress; I figure out what my next step is to move toward alleviating the stress). So I ordered Siblings Without Rivalry from Amazon and read it on the Kindle app on my phone. (As a side note, I’m still trying to use the free library app to get Kindle books from the library, called Overdrive, but I’m having trouble getting my library pin to work during log-in).

First and foremost, read the book if you only want to have one child and would like additional justification that you are making the right decision. Seriously, the whole first part of it explains what is at the heart of sibling rivalry: children fee like they are competing for love.

The authors even go so far to say that having a sibling is like having your partner come home and say, “Honey, I love you so much that I’m going to bring home another wife/husband just like you. S/he is going to live with us and share all of your things.”

After getting over the shock that maybe I should have stuck to my original plan of having only one child, I found the strategies to be helpful and concrete.

Here were some of my favorite ones:
Instead of dismissing negative feelings about a sibling, acknowledge the feelings.

Instead of:
Child: “You’re always with the baby.”
Parent: “No I’m not. Didn’t I just read to you?”

Put the feelings into words:
Parent: “You don’t like my spending so much time with her.”

Give children in fantasy what they don’t have in reality.

Child: “Send the baby back!”
Parent: “You don’t mean that. You know you love her.”

Express what the child might wish:
Parent: “You don’t want her here. Sometimes you wish she’d go away.”

Stop hurtful behavior, show how angry feelings can be discharged safely. Refrain from attacking the attacker.

Instead of:

Parent: “That’s a nasty thing to do to the baby! She only touched your blocks.”

Show better ways to express anger:

“No punching. Tell your sister how angry you are with words, not fists.”  

Those were the first group of strategies. I’m feeling like I should stop there so I can put them into practice in the coming week!

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Jenn said...

While I understand the metaphor, I never like the idea of presenting sibling rivalry as a competition for parents affection. It doesn't ring true to me and sets up love as limited supply commodity in a family. I have two small kids and a brother to whom I am close. It seems to ignore the real and very deep love and joy children get from their relationships with each other completely apart from their parents. There is also a fair amount of research that documents sibling relationships can be as powerful as parents on certain aspects of development.

My kids argue, but they also play and miss each other. My younger child worships her older brother and he can be very tender with her. They also occasionally scream at each other. I found some of the suggestions in that book helpful but mostly they seemed to boil down to hear your child and don't dismiss their feelings, a parenting practice that is essential regardless of issue. I prefer Laura Markham's book on sibling relationships. It focuses more on building relationship skills within the family as a whole than just focusing on kids competing for attention. I think the way we frame things is very powerful. It seems like the competing sibling frame sets us up for failure and a scarcity mentality.

Katie Z said...

I love this! Not just for siblings. I get so annoyed with the default approach to parenting being "don't do that" instead of recognizing the feeling and helping to teach children healthy responses and productive ways to both communicate feelings and address situations.

Katie Z said...

I love this! Not just for siblings. I get so annoyed with the default approach to parenting being "don't do that" instead of recognizing the feeling and helping to teach children healthy responses and productive ways to both communicate feelings and address situations.

Sarah said...

I just read this book as well and found a lot of the strategies very helpful. As Katie Z commented, helping children understand their feelings by acknowledging them and validating is a much better strategy than trying to simply control their behavior in all areas. I found this book helpful in giving me strategies for helping my young kids (almost five, twin two and a half year olds) try to resolve their arguments more themselves, rather than me doing it for them, which I can see becoming increasingly important as they get older.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi Jenn,

Thanks for sharing your interesting perspective!

I didn't have a sibling until I was 15 years-old, but I remember how I felt when my single mom started dating people or when she would get remarried. She would always say, "My love is like fire. It can light many candles and burn brightly on all of them." But that never felt true to me. I could feel that her time was a zero-sum game; every minute she spent with a new man in her life was a minute she wasn't able to spend with me.

I guess all of that is to say that the author's point about rivalry stemming from competition for time/love/affection/affirmation did resonate with me.

AND I also think everything you say about the benefits of having a sibling is also true. That's why we ultimately decided to have two. It's the sweetest thing to see them together.

Thanks for the suggestion to check out Laura Markham's book. It sounds good!

Rach said...

Use your library password as your PIN on Overdrive. You set one up when you get your library card. I don't know why they don't just call it a password on Overdrive. But I love Overdrive and have listened to 10 audiobooks already this year!

M.Rude said...

The pin for library cards is sometimes the last 4 of your phone number. Also Overdrive is amazing, don't just search for kindle! You can read ePub right in the overdrive app bookshelf!

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