Book Review: Siblings without Rivalry – a few takeaways

Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

I recently read a book called Siblings without Rivalry. I noticed it in an e-mail from Bookbub. Even though my kids get along really well as far as siblings go, I still have those moments when the bickering makes me want to pull my hair out! Plus, I put a lot of emphasis on them having a good relationship because I always wished I had a better relationship with my own brother and I think it is important for them to know that they will always have each other. So I purchased the book figuring if I got even one decent piece of advice out of it, it would be worth it. Little did I realize I had stumbled upon a gem!


The book is well written and a super easy read. It is written through the perspective of a support group offering lots of anecdotes from the parents there as well as the author herself. There are even little cartoon depictions of the ways situations could be handled (often an “instead of…” cartoon followed by a “try it this way…” cartoon) which are fun examples and great to refer back to.  I thought it stayed light even while tackling a heavy subject. I provided me with many eye opening revelations (and some I already knew but felt were worth reading and reiterating anyway). It was well worth the time and money.


I thought I would share a few of my biggest takeaways:


  1. Allow children to express their emotions regarding their sibling. (pg.19-30)

As a parent, we want everything to be so wonderful and loving all the time between our kids that we are quick to blow off their negative emotions (or even pretend they don’t exist), but when they say they hate their sibling or something equally hard to hear and we respond with “no, you don’t,” we are really doing them a disservice. They need to get that emotion out. Bottling it up inside is not healthy for them and can often lead to them “letting it out” in other, possibly hurtful ways. Just think about it. As adults, when we get really upset sometimes it just feels better after we go to our best friend and have a huge venting session. We don’t need a solution or answer all the time. It can be therapeutic just to get it off our chests. Even if the kids say scary things during these venting sessions, it is far better for them to feel heard and know that we do care about them and their feelings than to have to walk around holding on to that pain.


  1. You do not have to make everything equal all the time. (pg 67-81 )

I know my parents struggled with this when my brother and I were young and I struggle with it all the time. We want our kids to feel equal love – get equivalent things, have equal time with us, etc etc etc, but I love the quote in the book that “to be loved equally…is somehow to be loved less.” Our children are unique individuals and should be treated as such. They need unique treatment that caters to their own needs. It is okay to buy one a new backpack because his is falling apart without feeling like we need to buy the other one too even though hers is perfectly good. Although in situations like this, we do need to take heed of their emotions.  It can be hard for them too. They do need their feelings on the subject validated. You don’t have to love them equally, you have to love them uniquely. (It’s like a weight off my shoulders.)

  1. Give kids the freedom to resolve their own disputes. (pg. 135)

Conflict resolution is tough. Even for us adults. Helping your kids create the skills needed for this by allowing them to resolve their own disputes is a good, safe place to start. Plus it can also help build their relationship and allow it to grow it ways it may not if we, as parents, continue to intervene. This is a hard one for me as most of the arguments happen in enclosed spaces (such as the car) and I just hear “Mooo-oom, she told me to shut up,” “Mooo-oom, he hit me” and on and on and on until I start to feel my last brown hairs turning gray. I just want to yell “WOULD YOU TWO LEAVE EACH OTHER ALONE! STOP TALKING! STOP TOUCHING! THERE IS AN INVISIBLE WALL AROUND EACH OF US SO WE CAN’T HEAR EACH OTHER!” Thankfully, Adele Faber has laid out the step-by-step framework for dealing with such a situation:

  1. Acknowledge their anger
  2. Listen to each side
  3. Show appreciation for the difficulty of the situation
  4. Let them know you are confident that they can come to a mutual agreement
  5. Exit

So the exiting part is hard in the car, but having these steps in my tool belt is extremely handy. The kids still feel like they are being heard. Hearing that you have confidence in their abilities is always a bit of a boost and hopefully they find a way to come to an agreement. If not Adele Faber also explains what to do in that situation. She lays out more steps involving a family meeting, brainstorming solutions (without any criticisms) and picking the one everyone can live with. Those aren’t all the steps, but you get the gest. Luckily, I have not had to resort to anything beyond the 5 I have laid out, but I am keeping them highlighted and ready to go!


I highly recommend this book whether your children are constantly at it or if they only have occasional arguments.The situations above are just a few of the many it tackles. It discusses comparisons (how often are we tempted to say “but your brother/sister was ready 10 minutes ago, what is taking you so long?”), sharing (I’m still trying to figure out which strategy will work for us), dangerous situations and much more. While reading the book, I felt like a lot of it was stuff I know in my head, but realized I’ve been doing all wrong anyway. It opened my eyes to a lot of day-to-day issues and possibilities for how we can run more smoothly and cohesively like a family.

Have you read the book? Do you find any of the above tips can apply to life with your kids? How do you handle conflict in your house?


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