Virtual Book Club 101: Siblings Without Rivalry Sections 5 & 6

Welcome back to the Childhood 101 virtual bookclub. We are currently reading Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (full bookclub details here), looking here at sections 5 & 6: Siblings in Roles and When the Kids Fight.

Wow, these two sections were jam packed with information, weren’t they? So many of the examples and stories shared resonated with my own experiences of family and siblings and in hindsight each section was probably worthy of its own independent discussion. That being said given that my girls are both so young, section five held the most relevance to me right now (though I have no doubt at all that section six will come in handy very, very soon). Here’s what spoke to me most strongly;

There is so much truth to the discussion of children and ‘roles’ in section five. I found the idea that it is not only parents (or teachers) that allocate or reinforce roles but also the child himself and siblings (and other peers, I am sure) really interesting, it was something I had not really considered previously. I have seen firsthand (as I am sure we all have) how the individual’s personality type, areas of strength (or weakness) and interests can all play a significant part in the determination or reinforcement of the roles allocated to him or herself. Although we don’t refer to it negatively, Immy has always been particularly drawn to imaginative and creative play, and she sings and dances her way through every day. It would be easy to label her our ‘creative’ child. Section five reminded me that encouraging her strengths and interests is important but I should be cautious in not limiting her from exploring other pursuits and mindful of how we compare our girls as AJ grows and shows us her own distinct self. The example the author used of her own experience learning the piano was really poignant for me.

These were my favourite passages from section five;

“We also need to prepare our children for life outside the family. And life demands that we assume many roles. We need to know how to care for and be cared for; how to be leaders and followers; how to be serious and a little wild; how to live with disorder and how to create order. Why limit any of our children? Why not encourage all of them to take chances, explore their potential, discover strengths they never dreamed lay within them.”  – page 94


“No child should be allowed to corner the market on any area of human endeavour. We want to make it clear to each of our children that they joys of scholarship, dance, drama, poetry, sport are for everyone and not reserved for those who have a special aptitude.”  – page 98


“Some of us might have greater needs or greater challenges, but we all need to be accepted as we are. Each of us is capable of growth and change. Which doesn’t mean we won’t have problems, but we’ll deal with each problem as it comes up. The important thing is to believe in ourselves.”  – page 117

With regards to section six, I need to have the summary of strategies offered on pages 144-145 printed as a visual to hang in our home! I’ll add it to my to-do list! (Did you see that I shared a printable poster for the strategies from section 2?) There really was so many excellent examples offered in this section and I know I will refer to it again and again but my favourite passage would have to be;

“Basically we try not to interfere, but when we must step in, it’s always with the thought that at the earliest possible moment we want to turn the children back to dealing with each other. That’s the best preparation we can give them for the rest of their lives.”  – page 157

What about you? Which of these sections spoke to you where your family is at right now? Did you nod along as your read, reflecting upon your own sibling relationships like I did?

Feel free to share your reflections in the comment section below. You might like to comment on;

  • 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 July 4th (that’s three weeks today) to discuss your thoughts about Section 7 and the Afterword and a general wrap up of our thoughts on the book.

Links to previous Siblings Without Rivalry book club conversations;


  1. You know these authors wrote another great book “Liberated Children, Liberated Parents” which chronicles their struggles with dealing with their children as they studied with the famous Haim Ginott. Its a great read. I reread it each time my kids reached a different stage

  2. I also really liked the “joys of scholarship, dance, drama, poetry, sport are for everyone and not reserved for those who have a special aptitude.” Just because someone is better than you at something doesn’t mean that you cannot still enjoy and even benefit from it.
    I think some of the best advice from the book would be to treat your child how you hope they will one day be, not how they currently are. It is great for not reinforcing those roles but it works well with everything. It really tells the child that you have faith that they are capable of more than they are currently doing and then handing over the responsibility to them to live up to their potential.
    I am working on the steps for conflict (page 135) but am not sure that at 2 they are really ready for that all the time. If they are not truly upset then this tends to work, but if one is upset (or both!) then it often just escalates even after acknowledging their feelings, listening to what happened, showing appreciation for the difficulty of the problem, and expressing faith that they can work it out. We also had a few biting incidents here the past 2 weeks so I am hesitant about going out of arms reach when emotions start to rise.

    I also LOVE the point the author made on page 156 about “Forced sharing undermines goodwill” You don’t learn to share by being forced to give someone something you are using or something that belongs to you. “Sharing” is one of my biggest pet peeves that I see when I bring my kids to play groups, friend’s houses and even with extended family.

    After reading the chapters I do find myself at a loss for things that I CAN say to my daughter. Ex:
    She pees in the potty without prompting “you are such a big girl”
    She puts away all of the clean silverware “thanks for being so helpful”
    She makes a picture that she puts a lot of time into “what a good little artist you are”
    I understand not promoting the negatives but what am I supposed to say for the positives. Yes I know they are reinforcing certain roles but I don’t know what the alternative would be.

    1. I would say that instead of worrying about giving praise for things she’s expected to do, instead, just state what you see, so she learns to be intrinsically motivated and proud of her own accomplishments without feeling the need to please you. For example, “You remembered to go potty all by yourself” or “You worked hard on that picture”.

      1. Thank you Lindsey. I like that. I will definitely try to incorporate that into my dialogue with the kids!

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