I grew up as an only child and I have to admit that I genuinely did not know what I was getting into when we decided to have more than one child. I really was not aware of all the different dynamics when it comes to having a sibling. ( a big part of me is quite happy that I did not have to deal with this lol)
When my eldest two were little , they honestly gave me a very false impression 😂. I thought , I cracked this whole parenting / sibling rivalry /jealousy -what jealousy – my eldest two were best friends. And then my third came along ! Without a shadow of a doubt , this was the pivotal moment when all things changed . In fact , I should have looked at certain signs – biggest one – my 2.5 year old son decided to pee on the baby ( my third child , when she was only 2 months old) . He still likes to remind that to her to this day , to rub it in , needless to say these two are far away from having a “loving , idyllic sibling’s relationship ) . Add two more children later and there is not a single day that doesn’t go without some sort of argument , bickering ,shouting , drama and tears :
” You stink … ; Hhahahha , you are baby , BAaaaaaaBy”
“Give me this, no it’s mine ” ( big emphasis on the MINEEEEEEEEEEEEE here)
” I want to play only with my brother , not with you ”
“she hit me ! No , you hit me – liar , liar pants on fire ! ”
I hope you get the gist and I am pretty sure you do, because I know for a fact that I am not alone in this . Whenever , I have told my husband , that something needs to be done , he would casually reply with -” Eva , that’s siblings for you . You should have seen how I was with my own brothers and sister ! It is just a phase!
What ! How can I possibly live like this for another ten , may be even 15 more years ! So , as with anything parenting , I turned to one of my best friends , who is a book worm and she suggested to me to read ” Siblings without rivalry ” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish . I have to say that I was really sceptical but then I went on reading the Amazon reviews and that over 1 million copies were sold , so surely there must be something helpful in there . I can honestly say that I absolutely love this book , I loved it that much that I have read it three times in total and often refer to it . I also find with parenting books, more often than not, the first time you read it, you will find a whole chapter or even two applicable to you but may be the others won’ be relevant at this particular stage of your parenting journey , because you may not be facing that challenge with your children. And this ultimately leads to my reason ( or so I try to convince myself,)as to why I don’t sell my parenting books. I just never know when I may need to re- read them again . Anyhow, back to the book, because I have read it so many times , I have even memorised certain phrases ( talk about dedication here hahahaa)
Similar like Adele and Elaine, when my children were little , I honestly thought that sibling rivalry was something that happens to other people’s children and not mine. I do not know in what sort of a bubble I was living because as my children started growing and more siblings were added, it did not take long for that bubble to burst. I have often wondered why they would behave like this, why they would be so rude to each other. Why is it so difficult to just get along , to just be nice to each other? Was I asking for much ? I have always believed that once you know the reason behind the why, then you can deal with anything .
So , I thought I would share some of the things that I have found useful from the book.
- Observe and write down the incidents that happen between your children– why do they argue and bicker? I personally found this very useful and without exaggeration , I was even writing once exactly while they were arguing , rather than leaving it for later. Well, weirdly I was so focused on writing the specific reason that their arguing did not actually upset me one bit . My list of why my children argue with each other is fairly big and has been changing a lot throughout the years and still is . But here are some of the things to give you a bit of an insight : touching siblings’ possessions without permission ( my 8 year old son does not like when his 5 year old sister touches anything of his – he just gets so annoyed and enraged ); arguing who is better in gymnastics, reading, writing etc.. arguing just because one of them laughed at them or looked at them the wrong way and much more…
- Talk about their feelings -Once you know why your children argue, find the time to talk with them about their feelings towards their siblings. These conversations do not necessarily need to take place right after an argument. I know from my own experience that my own children and even myself sometimes need to cool down before we can have a chat. Adele and Elaine place a big emphasis on acknowledging feelings and not dismissing the negative feelings about a sibling. I have been plenty of times in situations , when one of my children have come to me to complain that their brother/sister called them silly or that they are a “baby”. And ,it is extremely easy to reply back with “Oh , Just ignore him/her”. Instead , I try as much as I can to acknowledge that feeling and say something along the lines of “I can understand how such words can make you upset/angry.. etc”. The authors mention throughout the book the importance of siblings to have their feelings about each other acknowledged and not ignored or dismissed. I think this is so important , because we often as parents worry that saying it how it is , and what your children feel about each other aloud will make it more difficult for them to get along. And it is exactly what Faber mentions in the book that “ Insisting upon good feelings between the children, led to bad feelings. Allowing for bad feelings between the children led to good feelings”
- Let your children express their feelings in symbolic or creative outlets-one of the things which I have been doing for some time now with my children and something that I have taken from this book is to help them “channel their hostile feelings into symbolic or creative outlets “. My 5 year old ,for example, really loves drawing , so if any of her siblings have annoyed her , I often tell her to to draw how she feels and that often seems to work and calm her down. Drawing his emotions does not work with my eight year old son , so I use another technique mentioned in the book- to punch his stuffed toy every time he feels like hitting his sibling. One of the phrases , which I have memorised and now use on auto pilot , every time someone wants to hit their brother/sister is : “Say it with words and not with fists” If they do not know how to say it exactly , because they are little or too angry, you can tell them what to say . For example ” I do not want you to sit on my bed without my permission.” My son also took his own initiative and made a poster that he stuck on his bed that said ” No one allowed to sit on my bed , without my permission ” ( needless to say there were plenty of exclamation marks ).There are a few chapters in the book, which portray various scenarios and techniques on how to handle fighting and how to respond helpfully , which I personally found very useful and beneficial.
4) Do not compare your children- “Never compare yourself to others , you will become either vein or bitter .” This is really one of those things, which I have to say, you can very easily fall into if you are a parent of two or more children. I have been in those situations myself quite a few times , where I just felt that in order to prove the point to one of my children, I had to insert the name of one of their sibling, somehow to encourage them to be like them and improve the situation. Just to give an example. my daughter can be quite messy and a bit of a hoarder ( you know one of those children who will keep any wrappers ( gift wrapper, chocolate ones, from something which she ate 10 months ago, labels ) you name it, its all in her drawers . I have said, in the past, to her when feeling frustrated myself , ” Why can’t you be more organised and tidy like your brother ?” I have realised in the last few years how this is so wrong to do. Even now, when I have the urge to compare them, I just bite the tongue and just do not say the name of their sibling. Adele and Elaine have a brilliant chapter on this , where they emphasise the importance of telling your child whatever you want to say directly, without any reference to their sibling. Resist the urge to compare, instead “describe”- describe what you see, describe what you feel :” It bothers me that you have so many wrappers and litter in your drawers “, describe what needs to be done, instead of comparing one child favourably to the other.
5) “Children do not need to be treated equally. They need to be treated uniquely”– I do now know about you, but as a parent, I have often been asked at various stages of my parenthood journey ( my husband as well ), one particular question by more or less all my children, apart from the baby ( no doubt she will ask that too when she learns how to speak lol)- ” Who do you love the most ?” Yep, it’s that tricky , most oft dreaded question , isn’t it ? And I can honestly see why as a loving mother and father , it’s very easy to reply with ” I love you all the same “. Opps, wrong answer !!!!! Adele and Elaine write extensively in the book on this- the importance of showing how all your children are loved uniquely, to focus as well on each child’s individual needs , instead of worrying about equal amounts and giving time to them according to need instead of giving equal time to each of your children. And alright, I will give you the correct answer to the question ( hahaha) : ” You are the only “you”in the whole wide world. No one could ever take your place “! It sounds so simple, right, when you actually come to think of it.
I hope you enjoyed my reflections on this book and that you found them helpful. There is a lot more that I can write on this particular topic But I really do not wish to turn it into a very, very long essay, and to fall into the trap of making this a summary of the book ( I do not think I can do it justice ). In case, someone things, that my children no longer quarrel – you could not be far away from the truth. They still bicker and have their moments, but I honestly find it a little bit easier in dealing with it. And a big reason for this is this incredible book- full of so much wisdom, practical guidelines, lots of advice and useful techniques that you can use together with your spouse. And to conclude this blog post, I thought I will share with you, this particular excerpt from the book, which I absolutely love :
” Siblings relationships are fluid, changing , constantly in process. At different periods of their lives, brothers and sisters draw apart or come together. There is no way that we as parents can mandate a fixed, close, loving relationship between our children. However, what we can do, with skills and goodwill, is remove the usual obstacles to sibling harmony, so that when our children are ready to reach out to one another, the road is clear. The Challenge is difficult. But it is merely difficult. It is not impossible. We need to deal with our own feelings, help our children to deal with their feelings, and somehow take all the raw, angry, confusing emotions generated by sibling rivalry and use them. Yes, use them to grow into more sensitive , aware , caring human beings. Use them to learn how to live together despite deep differences.
“Siblings without rivalry – Help your children live together so you can live too ” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish can be bought from here- https://amzn.to/2GoSwCV ( affiliated link )