This is the first meeting of the Childhood 101 virtual bookclub and our first book is Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (it’s not too late to join us, full details here).
So I guess I’ll start! First up, I love how easy this book is to read. As a too busy, sleep deprived, at home working mama of two, I needed easy and relatable and I think Siblings Without Rivalry delivers on both accounts.
I experienced a bit of an Aha! moment when I read the following paragraph in section one;
“Instead of worrying about the boys becoming friends,” I explained, “I began to think about how to equip them with the attitudes and skills they’d need for all their caring relationships. There was so much for them to know. I didn’t want them hung up all their lives on who was right and who was wrong. I wanted them to be able to move past that kind of thinking and learn how to really listen to each other, how to respect the differences between them, how to find the ways to resolve those differences. Even if their personalities were such that they never could be friends, at least they would have the power to make a friend and be a friend.”
I want nothing more than for my girls to be close but I realise that I can’t force it and in doing so I may just cause more damage than good. They are very much individuals (which is already very evident even at the ages of five and one) and it is important that they grow to respect (and hopefully continue to love) each other whatever their differences. That they learn to compromise and find an acceptable middle ground and that they learn to appreciate the strengths and gifts of others instead of being envious or feeling less capable/competent/confident.
As for the practical strategies shared in section two;
- Instead of dismissing negative feelings about a sibling, acknowledge the feelings.
- Give children in fantasy what they don’t have in reality.
- Help children channel their hostile feelings into symbolic or creative outlets.
- Stop hurtful behaviour. Show how angry feelings can be discharged safely. Refrain from attacking the attacker.
I am not sure if the authors are just spoiling us by starting off lightly but I was relieved that these strategies don’t seem so difficult to accomplish (and I like the number and range of anecdotes shared as examples of each) – I see it as a matter of me changing (or re-framing) my responses to the conflict as it arises. Of course, change isn’t always easy and it takes time to make new behaviours habitual – I don’t know how many times I have read a self help book or great parenting article and thought, “I must do this,” and then five minutes later I have forgotten it. So I have been thinking about how I can make these strategies a more permanent part of my parenting toolkit and I think I am going to write these four prompts on a paper to put up on the fridge or maybe my bathroom mirror. I want to make a poster for the playroom reflecting these four strategies in language or as examples more relevant to a young child (I’ll share it once I have) and I am going to work at one strategy at a time.
Strategy #1 is first up and this morning when Immy was becoming frustrated at AJ instead of saying something like, “She is just a baby and she doesn’t realise that you aren’t actually stacking the blocks for her to knock down,” I said, “I can see how frustrating it must be for you as AJ keeps interrupting your game.” Immy was quiet for a moment and then turned to get some more blocks and made AJ a pile of her own to play with alongside where she was playing. I was so proud of her for trying to find a way to work out a solution.
Interestingly, Immy has regularly turned spontaneously to art (#3) as a means of working through big emotions (you can see examples here and here) but I have never thought to suggest she use it when she is angry or upset.
Finally, I am going to try to keep top of mind the paradox that the authors shared at the conclusion of section two;
“Insisting upon good feelings between the children led to bad feelings.
Acknowledging bad feelings between the children led to good feelings.”
Now it is your turn to share your impressions in the comment section below. Here are some discussion ideas to get you started (but they are by no means prescriptive – answer one or all, or share (or ask) something completely different, it’s up to you).
- What is one idea, tip or story that really spoke to you or that you took away as a valuable insight?
- Do you have question for others in response to what you read?
- What was your favourite passage from the book?
- Is their a story of your own related to the themes of one (or both) of these sections that you would like to share?
Details for the next book club meeting
Pop back on May 23rd (that’s three weeks today) to discuss your thoughts about Sections 3 & 4: The Perils of Comparisons and Equal is Less.