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22. Book Review -- Siblings Without Rivalry

Book Title: Siblings Without Rivalry

AuthorAdele Faber & Elaine Mazlish

Year of Publication1987, 2004


Pages246 pages

Author’s Web-site:

Full Book Available in: English, Czech

You should read this book if you…

Want your children to get along better and build good relationships.

“In a nut shell”…

Sibling rivalry is a common part of growing up with siblings. Instead of letting it destroy your children’s relationship, this book gives you tools to help your children learn how to relate to one other in a more positive way.

Key Ideas…

Sibling rivalry is normal; not something to be afraid of, but something we should see as a “classroom” in which children learn to form healthy relationships. What relational skills they learn within the family, dealing with conflict, disappointment in not getting their own way, sharing belongings, etc, they will carry with them into life..

Recognizing your children’s negative feelings towards their siblings is essential in the process of forming more positive ones. We need to give them a proper outlet to let them have those feelings validated.

Comparing your children to each other, either favorably or unfavorably, is unhealthy.

It is more important to treat your children uniquely than fairly. They want to feel like they are loved and respected for who they are individually. They are unique and so are their needs.

No one (parents, child, siblings) should lock a child into any kind of role. Parents should never label their child (messy, smart, shy), even in ways we think are complimentary.

If you implement these principles into your families life, the fighting will decrease and good feelings between your children will increase.

Action Steps…

Don’t worry about your children being “best friends”. Focus on equipping them with skills (i.e. listening) and attitudes (i.e. humility) they need in all their relationships.

Acknowledge your children’s feelings (negative and positive) towards one another and show them how to deal with angry feelings in an acceptable way.

Evaluate yourself in how you deal with angry feelings – what kind of role model are you?

Evaluate the needs of each child individually. Explain to them that things may not be equal, and that is OK.

Do not put your children in roles, encourage them to try different activities.

Instead of talking about negative behavior, use statements such as “I know you have an incredible ability to be kind. Please use that ability!”

Tell children that hurting one another will not be allowed.

Do not force your children to share their possessions. You may encourage it, but forcing it will increase resentment between your children.


“Insisting upon good feelings between the children led to bad feelings. Allowing for bad feelings between the children led to good feelings.” Pg 49

“The passion and excitement you feel about a child’s achievement should be saved for a moment when just the two of you are together. It’s too much for the other sibling to have to listen to.” Pg 58

“To be loved equally is somehow to be loved less. To be loved uniquely – for one’s own special self – is to be loved as much as we need to be loved.” Pg 69

“Treat our children, not as they are, but as we hope they will become.” Pg 103

“Basically we try not to interfere (when fighting), 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.” Pg 156


How to Handle the Fighting

(Pgs 143 & 144)

Normal bickering: Ignore it; Tell yourself the children are having an important experience in conflict resolution.

Situation is heating up: Acknowledge their anger; Reflect each child’s point of view; Describe the problem with respect; Express confidence in the children’s ability to find their own solution; Leave the room.

Situation possibly dangerous: Inquire: “Is this a play fight or a real fight?” (Play fights are permitted. Real fights are not.); Let the children know: “Play fighting by mutual consent only”; Respect your feelings: “You may be playing, but it’s too rough for me. You need to find another activity.”

Situation definitely dangerous. Adult intervention necessary: Describe what you see; separate the children.

How this has changed my parenting…

There is some great practical advice in this book. It is relatively easy to implement, because once you think about it, the authors make so much sense. I hadn’t really thought about the things that we do to set our kids up for bickering. I started reading this book thinking that my kids just need to change but realized that there are several things my husband and I need to change in our parenting. It was refreshing to realize that what my children are going through is normal and that they really are learning some valuable life skills by interacting with each other.

We just recently had a big discussion about the kids being treated equally and they both walked away thinking the last thing they wanted to be was treated equally, just uniquely. The above guidelines about fighting have really helped: it takes the pressure off of me to solve the issues and let’s the kids do it with minimal intervention from me.

I felt that my kids should share everything and I would try to force them to do so, but I realized that it is good for them to have a choice in sharing.

Sibling rivalry is much more than kids fighting all the time. It really is important that we help them navigate through this relationship by doing our part.

© 2011 The Family Project

Related Topics: Christian Home, Mothers, Fathers, Parenting, Book Review, Parent Resources

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