Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sibling Rivlary

Summertime and the living is easy. Or is it? Amidst the fun, swimming, overnight outings, out of town company, etc., life still goes on. Despite the season, there is still shopping, work, bills to pay, problems to solve and, oh yes, more time for sibling rivalry and fighting.

For most families, sibling rivalry is not a small problem for parents or children. If you are a sibling, you probably still remember childhood interactions and events that impact you today. Ray Barone and his brother, Robert, on the popular television show, Everybody Loves Raymond, exemplify how being cast into roles early on in life endure into adulthood impacting one’s self-esteem, relationships and worldview. Raymond, the youngest and favored child, is smothered with love but feels an overwhelming responsibility to please others and to be liked. Robert, feeling neglected and inferior, perceives himself as unlucky in love and is the quintessential victim. In each episode we are given a humorous scenario depicting how these loveable adults play out the roles that were assigned to them as children.

Regardless of your upbringing, sibling conflict and rivalry is inevitable. The fighting and bickering is part of the process of learning how to navigate through the world of relationships. With the careful guidance of understanding and well-informed adults, children can learn conflict resolution skills, empathy, and the positive nature of compromise via disputes. Unfortunately, most of us did not have parents that modeled effective interventions or strategies for reframing the chaos of sibling rivalry into learning opportunities. So, what is a parent to do?

If you are encountering such issues, Siblings Without Rivalry, written by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, will be an excellent summer read. Their immensely popular book provides you with many wonderful examples and strategies that reduce or eliminate sibling rivalry. (I can just hear some of you muttering, “whatever”, but give this book a try). The book fully addresses the following concepts:

• Brothers and sisters need to have their feelings about each other acknowledged.
• Children need to have their hurtful actions stopped.
• Children need to be shown how to discharge angry feelings in an acceptable manner.
• Children don’t need to be treated equally. They need to be treated uniquely.
• Let no one lock a child into a role be it overly positive or negative.
• Focus on your child’s strengths rather than their weaknesses

You will be happy to hear that Siblings Without Rivalry also offers step-by-step interventions when your kids fight. Many examples are given of helpful and unhelpful responses, as well as how to handle the fighting at various levels. For example, specific suggestions are given for normal bickering, when a situation is heating up, and when the fight is escalating to the point of becoming possibly dangerous.

Enjoy this book as well as your summer. I am sure if you have more than one child you will have many opportunities to practice the wonderful techniques offered in this fine book.

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