There are parenting books we need in order to get through defined moments of child development, like sleep training a baby or potty training a toddler. We cling to those books in our time of need, but when the moment has passed, we are more than happy to hand them down to a new parent and clear a little space on our shelves.
But certain other rare parenting books shed light on problems so fundamental to family life and human experience that we plan to keep them on hand for a long, long time. Siblings Without Rivalry is one of those books.
Everyone knows that the arrival of a new baby in the house is a major event for an older sibling. There are plenty of picture books designed to ease the transition and help the new big brother or sister process his or her complicated feelings. And many wonderful parenting books offer guidance on navigating the first few months of a new family configuration.
But as we get caught up once again in managing the day-to-day, parents often tend to expect that sibling relationships will fall into place and that they will instinctively know how to deal with the normal squabbles and conflicts. After all, most of us grew up with siblings, most people we know have siblings, and everyone seems to manage. What is there to know?
What you will discover in this amazing book, based on in depth research with real families, is two-fold. First, you learn how profoundly parents influence sibling relationships. No longer can you just blame the dumb luck of personality differences. Whether they intend to or not, parents have a huge role in shaping how brother and sisters see each other, and how children see themselves vis-à-vis their siblings. Second, you learn how deeply sibling relationships can affect a person’s sense of self and life course. No one who reads this book in its entirety will be thinking solely about his or her own children. It inevitably provokes reflection on one’s own siblings, and how our own identities were shaped in relation to theirs.
Yes, this is big stuff. But guess what? Siblings Without Rivalry has also got to be one of the most down to earth, easy to grasp, practical and immediately useful parenting books out there. It has cartoons, for goodness sake! And even if all you ever manage to read are the cartoons, you’ll be a better parent for it.
Seriously, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish know what they are talking about, and they know how to help. (These two are also authors of the brilliant, bestselling How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.) They take us through crucial issues including how to react when siblings voice negative feelings about each other; the perils of comparing siblings or putting them in roles; how being fair doesn’t always mean treating children the same; and how to intervene helpfully when brothers and sisters fight.
All of the techniques described here were tested and refined in parent workshops, and real-life family stories as well as those handy cartoons make these ideas easy to apply with your own kids. The book, therefore, will be immediately helpful in bringing a more civil and loving tone to your family life. For the long term, Faber and Mazlish help us think about how to foster cooperative rather than competitive relationships between our children – relationships, we must remember, that will last a lifetime – and, most important of all, how to give them the gift of being valued, not in relation to others, but for their individual selves.
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