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on 8 September 2001
It is a truly nerve-jangling experience to see brother and sister constantly at each other. As a parent, one sometimes wishes that they could show just a little less creativity in looking for things to fight about. There's the charge of "It's not fair, he's had more than me" that occasionally makes you feel like getting out rulers, measuring jugs and scales to settle the issue once and for all. However, rarely is anything solved once and for all as they amaze you by finding still more ways of fuelling the strife. Keeping the peace can be tiring, stressful and, worst of all, futile. For you know that no sooner have you settled one dispute, than another one starts five minutes later. Faced with such repetitive scenes, you ask yourself, "Why do they behave like this?" "Why can't they get on?" "Why are they at each other all the time" "Why do I need to spend so much of my time keeping them apart and putting a stop to their squabbles".
Siblings without Rivalry addresses these concerns and offers some practical advice on how to manage and improve things. To start with, the book encourages parents to acknowledge the intense feelings which a child may express even when these feelings sound cruel, harsh, and unloving. On hearing, "I wish Tom had never been born, I hate him", a well-intentioned parent may be tempted to deny ('Oh come on, you don't really mean that!'), preach ('You'll get on better with people if you concentrate on the positive') or ignore ('Let's talk about the nice things you did today'). According to Faber & Mazlish, the most helpful response a parent can give is to avoid such responses and instead simply acknowledge the feelings as the child reports them. For example, a parent can help a child to fully express their feelings by putting them into words ("You don't want your sister here. Sometimes you wish she'd just go away").
For some parents the benefits of such an approach may not seem at all obvious. Some may feel convinced that giving more attention to negative feelings can only prolong the misery by leaving them stuck in an emotional rut. Surely the parent has to lead, instruct, cajole, jolly them up as the occasion demands. However, Faber & Mazlish tackle these misgivings and argue that the most helpful response is one that avoids rushing to offer solutions and lets the child know that she has been heard.
In a chapter entitled 'The Perils of Comparisons', the authors deal with a tactic instinctively employed by many. ("Look at how nicely Hannah is eating") Pointing out that this is more likely to awaken ill feeling rather than cooperation, the authors urge parents always to avoid both favourable and unfavourable comparisons and instead simply describe the "problem" ("I see milk dripping down the front of your shirt") and leave it at that. Put like this, the child is allowed time and opportunity to show initiative and think of a solution herself.
The book offers some excellent advice on how best to respond when kids are fighting or bickering. Instead of taking sides and/or imposing their solution, parents should encourage children to sort out their own conflicts and disagreements. Their recommended procedure deserves extended quotation as follows:
1. Start by acknowledging the children's anger towards each other. ("Gosh, you two sound really cross with each other"). That alone should help calm them down. 2. Listen to each child's side with respect. ("So,Tom, you wanted to build a zoo by yourself ; and Michael, you wanted to join in") 3. Show appreciation for the difficulty of the problem. ("Hmm, this is a difficult one.") 4. Express faith in their ability to work out a mutually agreeable solution. ("I am pretty sure that if you two talk about this together, you'll work out some arrangement that feels fair to each of you.") 5. Leave the room. ("While you're working on it, I'll be reading the paper in the other room").
Stock parental responses to such advice include "That would never work with my children" , "My two would just dig their heels in and start fighting again after two minutes" "Eric is so strong-willed that he would just not be prepared to compromise and the little one would lose out". Clearly, it is not something that will necessarily work faultlessly first time especially if the parent has previously been consistently willing to play judge or honest broker. However, if one is prepared to persist, it produces children who learn how to manage their own conflicts and as a result get on better.
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on 16 February 2005
I first read this book when my children were 4 and 6, and their relational issues were mostly centred on 'sharing' and 'learning to be gentle'. Many of the issues/situations covered in the book had not yet arisen in our family. Now that they are older, 6 and 8, and the older one has learnt that he can be vicious with his words, and the younger one manipulative with his emotional reactions I have dipped into it again, and it has proved extremely helpful. To start with it has helped me to reflect on my own experiences, growing up with my brother, and the reasons why siblings clash and how parents can make the situation both worse and better. The most positive part of the book is that it helps you, the parent, to help your children take responsibility for handling and expressing their feelings and managing their disagreements. Hopefully these will become valuable skills for their future relationships in life too. I have recommended the book to numerous friends. I recently lent my copy of the book to someone, but I cannot remember who it was, so I have GOT to buy a new one. I'm going to need to refer to it many times over the next few years I feel!
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on 27 November 2002
This book has given us so many ideas to try with our three young children (ages 5, 3, and 2 months). I really like the way all of the strategies maintain the dignitiy of both the parent and the child. When I am able to resist "automatic parenting" reactions that aren't working yelling, threatening, criticizing, and bribing and use some of the great suggestions in this book, I feel so much more effective and proud of myself as a parent. Because I have 3 very young children, I would like to also recommend a new pocketsized book that has been extremely helpful to me with my specific sibling issues. Appropriately entitled "The Pocket Parent", it is written exclusively for parents with 2's, 3's, 4's, and 5's. There are a number of pertinent chapters relating to sibs... "the new baby", "comparing and labeling", "sibling rivalry", "hitting and hurting others", "biting", "bad words", "I hate you's", "power struggles", and "traveling with the kids". These two books with exactly the same philosophy compliment each other--both having many great examples of the exact words to use in many sibling situations. One of the best things I learned from both books is to stop trying to "be fair", but instead to try to meet each child's needs. For example, if you tried your best to serve same sized pancakes to the kids and your son immediately screams that his sister's pancakes are much bigger and better than his...instead of going nuts and yelling back that he's absolutely wrong as you take your ruler out to prove just need to take a deep breath and say calmly, "Mmmmm, sounds like you're still hungry, about two more pancakes just for you!! GREAT ADVICE...and it works!!
Also recommended: THE POCKET PARENT
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on 1 September 2005
A wonderful and extremely easy to read book with great and usable tips on how to give your children the best chance of getting along together. No heavy 'text book' style here - it's not even a case of 'sounds good but how could I ever manage to put it into practise?'...
With great illustrations/cartoons, 'Quick reminder' lists at the end of each topic and a good index, it's easy to flick through and find just what you're looking for, without having to read the whole book again (not that having to do that would be a disaster!)
The book also gives adults an insight into their own relationships with their siblings - I've told my mother, sister and husband that they just MUST read it.
On reading the dedication in the front of the book: "To all the grown-up siblings who still have a hurt child inside them.", I knew that this was the book I had been looking for!
Congratulations & thanks to Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish - a brilliant book!!
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on 30 June 2004
I agree wholeheartedly with the reviewer who pointed out the book's American style and lack of info on introducing a new baby to the family. It's good and I have found it helpful, but it does have large gaps and the tone does grate. I've found Sibling Rivarly, Sibling Love to have greater breadth and depth AND a good section on a new baby in the family.
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on 2 March 2015
What a fantastic book, I only wish I'd known and read it years earlier. I have two daughters aged 17 & 16 born just under 13 months apart and it was getting to the stage where we couldn't even sit to eat dinner at our table together without a war between the two if them. I read the first 4 chapters late on a Saturday evening and then felt confident to ask for a family meeting that Sunday evening knowing I could not continue as we had been doing. We talked for 2 hours the four of us, very productively and honestly fir the first time ever. I found myself saying things like " I know how that must-have made you feel" & "how do you both suggest that this can be worked out". The result so far is amazing, for the next couple of hours all you could hear from them both was chatting and laughing, and they even made muffins together. Something they haven't done together since they were small. They both even told us of the things they were grateful of us for, which made us feel that we were doing something right. Thank you so much fir this enlightenment. I have just purchased how to talk so teens will listen and listen so teens will talk. Looking forward to reading that one but won't start right now as its 2.40am as had to finish this one within 24 hours as couldn't put it down.
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on 22 July 2004
In desperation as a single parent father I bought this book and the other (F&M) one about How to talk so kids will listen.... What a revelation they are. By acknowledging children's feelings and allowing them to talk most of the conflict has gone. By describing rather than bossing around co-operation has increased. It has not been easy and I still have a long way to go but things are a lot more relaxed. By removing the "competing and comparing with each other" part of the sibling relationship much of the brother and sister conflict and fighting has gone. I also found the idea of family meetings really helpful. By getting the children to contribute to the solution there is definitely more co-operation.
I have no hesitation in recommending it. In fact it probably needs to be compulsory for all parents. Also check out their website [...]
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on 1 September 2001
as excellent book to read, whether you have just had a second child or your children are teenagers. should be on the required reading list for parents. an easy to read book, with cartoon pages and summary pages. many parents might already be using the skills shown in this book, but i believe that any one can benefit from its wisdom in some way or other.
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on 8 August 2016
Really great book, every parent of more then one child should be given this as a gift on the birth of their second child -seriously, it really made me think and although I'm not guilty of many of the things it's nice to know I'm doing ok but can learn and refine my parenting skills.
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on 8 March 1999
I find that most parenting books just end up making a person feel guilty or like there is no way they can possibly do all the things the book suggests. In this book (although it certainly helps you to see how far you have to go!) I have found that putting the suggestions into practice is made so much easier. I still sometimes find myself saying something unrecommended, but I catch myself and step back. And then I start over again. Other people have even commented on things that I say to the children (that i got directly from this book!) and it makes me so proud! We are all trying to do the best we can with our children, and having two or more children can be so hard at times. How do you keep both children happy? When you have only one it seems a bit easier, and having two seems like such a good idea! Then when the second child comes along things are so different! I think large families are wonderful, but I also think this is the ideal manual. Every parent (and/or sibling) should read it!
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