Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too

Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too

by Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish


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The #1 New York Times best-selling guide to reducing hostility and generating goodwill between siblings.

Already best-selling authors with How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish turned their minds to the battle of the siblings. Parents themselves, they were determined to figure out how to help their children get along. The result was Siblings Without Rivalry. This wise, groundbreaking book gives parents the practical tools they need to cope with conflict, encourage cooperation, reduce competition, and make it possible for children to experience the joys of their special relationship. With humor and understanding—much gained from raising their own children—Faber and Mazlish explain how and when to intervene in fights, provide suggestions on how to help children channel their hostility into creative outlets, and demonstrate how to treat children unequally and still be fair. Updated to incorporate fresh thoughts after years of conducting workshops for parents and professionals, this edition also includes a new afterword.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393342215
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/09/2012
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 56,952
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Adele Faber, whose books on communication between adults and children have been translated into more than thirty languages, is the award-winning author of the best-selling How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids
Will Talk.

Elaine Mazlish, whose books on communication between adults and children have been translated into more than thirty languages, is the award-winning author of the best-selling How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids
Will Talk.

Read an Excerpt

How This Book Came to Be

As we were writing How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, we ran into trouble. The chapter on sibling rivalry was getting out of hand. We were only halfway through, and it was already over a hundred pages long. Desperately we went to work to shorten, tighten, eliminate—anything to get it into proportion with the rest of the book. But the more we cut, the more unhappy we became.

Gradually the truth dawned on us. To do justice to sibling rivalry, we'd have to give it a book of its own. Once that decision was made, the rest fell into place. We would put into How To Talk . . . enough material on handling conflicts to ease parents over the roughest spots. But in our "sibling book" we would have room to stretch out, to tell about our early frustrations with our own battling kids; to describe the eye-opening principles we learned from the late child psychologist, Dr. Haim Ginott, in the years that we were part of his parent group; to share the insights we gained from our families, our reading, and our endless discussions with each other; and to describe the experiences of the parents who took part in the workshops we subsequently created and con ducted on sibling rivalry.

It also occurred to us that we had an unusual opportunity through our nationwide speaking engagements to find out what parents around the country felt about sibling problems. We soon discovered we had a hot topic on our hands. Wherever we went, the very mention of the words "sibling rivalry" triggered an immediate and intense reaction.

"The fighting drives me up the wall."

"I don't know what'll happen first. Either they'll kill each other or I'll kill them."

"Iget along fine with each child individually, but when the two of them are together, I can't stand either one of them."

Evidently the problem was widespread and deeply felt. The more we talked to parents about what went on between their children, the more we were reminded of the dynamics that produced such high levels of stress in their homes. Take two kids in competition for their parents' love and attention. Add to that the envy that one child feels for the accomplishments of the other; the resentment that each child feels for the privileges of the other; the personal frustrations that they don't dare let out on anyone else but a brother or sister, and it's not hard to understand why in families across the land, the sibling relationship contains enough emotional dynamite to set off rounds of daily explosions.

We wondered, "Was there anything to be said on behalf of sibling rivalry? It certainly wasn't good for parents. Was there something about it that might be good for children?"

Everything we read made a case for the uses of some conflict between brothers and sisters: From their struggles to establish dominance over each other, siblings be come tougher and more resilient. From their endless rough-housing with each other, they develop speed and agility. From their verbal sparring they learn the difference between being clever and being hurtful. From the normal irritations of living together, they learn how to assert themselves, defend themselves, compromise. And sometimes, from their envy of each other's special abilities, they become inspired to work harder, persist and achieve .

That's the best of sibling rivalry. The worst of it, as parents were quick to tell us, could seriously demoralize one or both of the children and even cause permanent damage. Since our book was going to be concerned with preventing and repairing any kind of damage, we felt that it was important to look once again at the causes of the constant competition among siblings.

Where does it all begin? The experts in the field seem to agree that at the root of sibling jealousy is each child's deep desire for the exclusive love of his parents. Why this craving to be the one and only? Because from Mother and Father, that wondrous source, flow all things the child needs to survive and thrive: food, shelter, warmth. caresses, a sense of identity, a sense of worth. of specialness. It is the sunlight of parental love and encouragement that enables a child to grow in competence and slowly gain mastery over his environment.

Why wouldn't the presence of other siblings cast a shadow upon his life? They threaten everything that is essential to his well-being. The mere existence of an additional child or children in the family could signify LESS. Less time alone with parents. Less attention for hurts and disappointments. Less approval for accomplishments. And most frightening of all, the thought: "If Mom and Dad are showing all that love and concern and enthusiasm for my brother and sister, maybe they're worth more than me. And if they are worth more, that must mean that I'm worth less. And if I am worth less, then I'm in serious trouble.''

No wonder children struggle so fiercely to be first or best. No wonder they mobilize all their energy to have more or most. Or better still, ALL. Security lies in having all of Mommy, all of Daddy, all the toys, all the food, all the space.

What an incredibly difficult task parents confront! They have to find the ways to reassure each child that he or she is safe, special, beloved; they need to help the young antagonists discover the rewards of sharing and cooperation; and somehow they have to lay the ground work so that the embattled siblings might one day see each other as a source of pleasure and support.

How were parents coping with this heavy responsibility? In order to find out, we devised a brief questionnaire

Is there anything you do with your children that seems to help their relationship?

Is there anything you do that seems to make it worse?

Do you remember what your parents did that increased the hostility between you and your siblings.

Did they ever do anything that decreased the hostility?

We also asked about how they got along with their siblings when they were young, how they get along now, and what areas they'd like to see covered in a book on sibling rivalry.

At the same time we interviewed people personally. We taped hundreds of hours of conversations with men, women, and children of diverse backgrounds ranging in age from three to eighty-eight.

Finally we gathered together all our materials, old and new, and ran several groups of eight sessions each on sibling rivalry alone. Some of the parents in these groups were enthusiastic right from the start; some were skeptical (Yeah, but you don't know my kids!"); and some were at their wits' end, ready to try anything. All of them participated actively—taking notes, asking questions, role-playing in class and bringing back to each other the results of their experiments in their home "laboratories."

From all these sessions and from all the work we had done in the years before comes this book, the affirmation of our belief that we, as parents, can make a difference.

We can either intensify the competition or reduce it. We can drive hostile feelings underground or allow them to be vented safely. We can accelerate the fighting or make cooperation possible.

Our attitude and words have power. When the Battle of the Siblings begins, we need no longer feel frustrated crazed, or helpless. Armed with new skills and new understanding, we can lead the rivals toward peace.

Copyright ) 1997, 1998 by Adele Faber & and Elaine Mazlish

Table of Contents

We'd Like to Thank xiii

How This Book Came to Be xv

Authors' Note xxi

1 Brothers and Sisters-Past and Present 1

2 Not Till the Bad Feelings Come Out 15

3 The Perils of Comparisons 51

4 Equal Is Less 67

5 Siblings in Roles

If He's "This," Then I'll Be "That" 89

Freeing Children to Change 98

No More Problem Children 111

6 When the Kids Fight

How to Intervene Helpfully 127

How to Step In So We Can Step Out 146

Helping Children Resolve a Difficult Conflict 148

7 Making Peace with the Past 179

Afterword 193

I Coping with Young Rivals 204

II Home Alone 223

III More Ways to Encourage Good Feelings Between Brothers and Sisters 231

Brothers and Sisters, After All 241

Additional Reading That May Be Helpful 249

For Further Study 253

Index 255

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Siblings Without Rivalry 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
amy010 More than 1 year ago
How This Book Works  Siblings Without Rivalry follows a set of parents in group sessions with the instructor/authors. At first, I thought it was a lazy way to write a book; after a short introduction the narrative reads like a dictation of parenting group sessions. It's not, of course, it's a thoughtful distillation of their experiences teaching sibling relationship sessions to many groups of parents. As I read, I found the parents' stories and conversations moving. The parents asked nearly every question that popped into my head, which was accompanied by a satisfying response. It was also comforting to read accounts of other parents making the same mistakes I have, and being just as clueless as I am about what to do.  The following is the outline and an example of the type of advice in that chapter.  Brothers and Sisters Past and Present  This chapter asks parents to record sibling conflicts, and sets expectations for what you can achieve as a parent.  Example: In response to one woman's statement about wanting her kids to be friends, the author replies with her own story, “‘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.’” Brilliant.  Not Till the Bad Feelings Come Out  Listening to your child complain about the troll that is their sibling, and acknowledging their feelings, is a very healing process.  “Insisting on good feelings between siblings led to bad feelings. Acknowledging bad feeling between siblings led to good feelings.”  Other emotional skills are important such as, naming feelings, and reflecting back to the child what they are feeling so they know you understand, for example, “You seem to be feeling angry that Gabi took your stick horse without asking.”  Perils of Comparisons  Even if you don't actively compare your kids to one another, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” The water is murky, for example praising one child within earshot of the other can feel like a put down to the other child.  Another insightful example: when a mother praised one of her child's improvement in math, the other gloated about her even better grade. The mother could have responded by saying, “There's no report card contest going on here… …I want to sit down with each of you individually to…” Then follow through giving each child your full attention and focusing your discuss on that child’s individual progress.  Equal is Less  Personally, I have railed against trying to be fair, and right from the start didn't tolerate, “She has more!” and “I want one too!!” However, just because I didn't tolerate it, didn't stop either child from feeling slighted if I didn't provide duplicates of everything. Now I have some new tools for working with this. I have added, “Everybody gets what she needs. I'm not worried about what anybody else has, if you need more, you can have more,” to my parenting mantras. Or I might say, “Eat what you have first, then if you need more there is plenty here for whomever needs it.” I still don't count and measure, and the girls are more relaxed knowing their needs will be met.  This chapter was also important for answering the, “You love Gabi more!” accusation. Instead of angry rebuttals, I now reply by telling Danielle all the things I love about her, and how much she means to me. I don't mention Gabi at all. She glows. She hasn't said that since I read this book.  Siblings in Roles  How often has, “This is Danielle, my little artist, and this is my monkey climber girl, Gabi” rolled off my tongue? It's so easy to cast kids in roles. I always thought I was praising a strength, but in reality I'm limiting my kids' potential. By labeling Danielle “The Artist”, she thinks that art is the only thing she's good out and resists branching out. Also, it could also limit Gabi's interest in art. Or worse, what if by some freak of talent, Gabi becomes a better artist than Danielle? Then Gabi will have taken Danielle's identity as “The Artist”. I've re-trained myself to introduce them as my daughter, Danielle, and my daughter, Gabrielle. That's it. They get to decide who, and what they are. I also have to guard against other people labeling them; I try to always say, “Yep, she likes to climb, but can do so many other amazing things too, like, color, make funny faces, tell a funny joke… She told me this one the other day…  Out of their earshot, I love to compare and contrast my kids' abilities and personalities. It helps me get a handle on them as individuals.  When Kids Fight  The first piece of advice is to do nothing. Weird, but what a relief! If it escalates, in my house it usually does, then the best thing to do is describe what you see without passing any kind of judgement. Kids are notoriously self centered, making it difficult to understand a sibling's intentions or point of view. Add to that the heat of conflict… Kaboom!  A parent can come into a dispute, hear and reflect each side in a way that both kids can understand, and them let them work out a solution.  Example:  Me: “Wow you guys sound upset.”  Danielle: “Gabi has my favorite necklace, and she's going to break it!”  Me: “You're worried that Gabi will break your necklace. It is really pretty, Gabi must really like it.”  Danielle: *calmer* “Yeah, but it's mine. And she's going to break it.”  Gabi: “No, it's actually MINE!” (It is not, of course, but Danielle has programmed this one into her stock phrases cache.)  Me: “Gabi, that necklace belongs to Danielle. She's worried that it might get broken.”  Gabi: “I want to wear it!”  Me: “Danielle, what can we do here?”  Danielle: “That one is my favorite, but she can wear this other one.”  Gabi: “Thank you, sis-ter.”  This actually happened. REALLY.  When I come in and describe what I see, show respect for Danielle's property rights, she might unlock her position and shift into finding a solution that Gabi will be happy with too. Gabi is a bit little to understand the nuances of what went on, but I also try to coach her by giving her things to say and ways of asking that doesn't trigger Danielle's volatile temperament. It is no small feat, and takes a lot of self-control on my part, because something is usually cooking on the stove, or the phone is ringing, but as I'm teaching them, I'm also learning how to focus and respectfully interact with them.  Making Peace With the Past  One woman spoke of how she was continually compared to her sister in an unfavorable light, and how it still affected her to this day. Through these sessions, she began to realize that these comparisons probably caused some suffering for her sister too, and she decided to call her.  “Then she told me how sorry she was for the pain she must have caused me, and how much it meant to her that I had called, and that if I hadn't, we might have gone to our graves without ever knowing each other. Then I started to cry.”  I endeavor not only to avoid this sort of mistake in raising my girls, I also want them to know what potential they have in each other for a lifelong companion. No one will understand or know the essence of you like a sibling. No one else will witness the trials and triumphs of your formative years from a first hand perspective, one that can actually enhance your understanding of those times. Even your future spouse or children won't be able to know you in that level of unspoken understanding. It's why I psshaaw, whenever my husband tells me how lucky he got to have me… All the people I grew up with know that he is my good luck.  There's nothing I can do to make Gabi and Danielle become friends, nor would I try, but I can avoid deepening the rift between them, and I can give them the building materials they need to bridge the gap between them when they are ready.  I have hope.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recommend this book to anyone raising more than one child. Well written, easy to digest with lots of ideas! To the authors: Thank you for this book! It's rare that I find a parenting book that I recommend.
tempi More than 1 year ago
I was hopeful about this book as it was the only one carried locally on the topic and I didn't want to order online for another. Sadly, the entire book is a series of comments made during an imaginary parenting support group, not an ongoing discussion of issues, root causes, etc. The author's solution to parents' many complaints is often cartoon drawings of "not this...but this". Tidbits are offered throughout the text, however not one piece of advice is unique to parents of quarelling children...this is basic parenting. For example, her most useful piece of advice is "don't compare your children". I don't mind that I wasted money on this book, but I do mind that I wasted the time reading it. For what it's worth, if you have absolutely no idea how to parent mulitple children and didn't grow up with other children around, this book might be helpful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was recommended to me by my 8 year old daughter's therapist! LOVE it! So many things that just make sense and make you think "why didn't I already realize this???" I started using the ideas as soon as I started reading it, I am already seeing results! Highly reccommend to all families with more than one child!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A handbook, workshop and reality check all in one. It's a "why didn't I think of that" and an "I'm glad I have that tool now" kind of parenting guide.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wish I had read this book years ago! It is an easy and entertaining read. Each chapter taught a specific skill and assigned 'homework'. I noticed a huge difference right away- within a day. The frequency of the kids' fights diminished,the intensity of their fights weakened, and they started to work out their own problems. I feel more confident in my parenting and proud that my children are learning problem solving skills. I'm recognizing that the kids are developing skills that will lead them to healthy relationships in their adulthood. I've learned how I have been fueling their fights in the past. How not to take sides and cast my children in damaging roles. We are a happier family all around! Of all my parenting 'how-to' books, this has been my favorite!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had such a great time reading this book. Easy to read and has examples that everybody can relate to. When you have more than one child, parents really need some help getting the kids to get along,this book has real examples and real advice you can follow. This book is a great resource. Fantastic, highly recommend it.
stephaniechase on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Indispensible for anyone with more than one child.
lilysea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I like the Positive Discipline series in general and this book in particular is full of useful examples, tips and reminders to help prevent all-out sibling war.
xuesheng on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a very readable book on parenting and sibling relationships. Many times, I read through parenting books very slowly trying to capture the thoughts, but this one was so well written and organized, that I read through it quickly. I especially like the Quick Reminders that give a brief summary of the topics in each chapter and the cartoons that illustrate the wrong way and the right way to handle sibling stresses. This will be a valuable and handy reference.Topics covered include:- Acknowledging feelings about each other- Resisting comparison of siblings- Treat children uniquely- Don't lock a child into a role- No more problem children- Handling fighting
mellonhead on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book has taught me so much about family dynamics and the roles we put on each other. It even had me re-inspecting my role in my family growing up. It is an easy read, and I have picked it up every 6-9 months and re-read portions of it and learn something new each time. I think it takes a while to learn the skills they recommend to help you learn to manage your children to help them learn to manage their relationships. It is a phenomenal parenting tool. I can't recommend it enough!
HippieLunatic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sometimes it is good for a parent to have common sense laid out so plainly before them.
SydneyAP on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent practical guide to negotiating your family through disputes in a respectful and thoughtful manner. Great examples illustrate the techniques and encourage creativity in problem solving. Pushes the negotiations back on the siblings, leaving parents free to arbitrate in more serious matters and equipping siblings with a great toolkit for the future.
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