BOOK CLUB: SIBLINGS WITHOUT RIVALRY by ADELE FABER & ELAINE MAZLISH

BOOK CLUB: SIBLINGS WITHOUT RIVALRY by ADELE FABER & ELAINE MAZLISH - This Wild Home

I am the oldest child in my family and after almost 6 years of being the only child, grandchild, niece, what have you; my brother was born and I hated him. As adults, we get along and he has become one of my favorite people. But as a kid, he was my biggest competitor for our parents love and attention and I wasn’t into it at all.

About 3 years later, when my sister was born,  I was over the concept of sibling and grew up never inviting her into my world. My sibling were a distant part of my life for a very long time and I’ve felt like I missed out on many years that could’ve been spent developing these relationships to their fullest potential.

With this being my only real experience with the relationship between siblings and the effects a new child can have on a family, I was pretty nervous about how our newest child would effects our oldest.

In my mind, all I saw in the future was a toddler full of resentment that lashed out against his parents who betrayed him.

Maybe that’s a little dramatic, but it was hard for me to imagine a child who is okay with sharing attention. Especially a child like mine who has had my full attention for most of his life. How could it ever be possible that he’d actually be fine with introducing a new baby who not only shared my attention, but demanded it most of the time?

In walks Siblings Without Rivalry, the book that I never knew I needed until I read it.

I wasn’t looking for it. I honestly hadn’t thought much about the fact that I could have some influence over how my children interacted. I mean, I knew I’d have some, but I didn’t realize how much parents can effect their children’s relationships until I read the wise words of Faber and Mazlish.

ABOUT THE BOOK

This is a book set in a parenting workshop and follows the experiences of the parents and leaders who have siblings that just don’t get along. The experiences, people, and stories are all based on real life situations that parents have found themselves in with real solutions that helped them navigate the delicate world of siblings.

The stories range from adult siblings, teens, kids, toddlers, and babies. From introducing new siblings to knowing how involved we need to be as our kids get older.

You get to see the realities of what sibling relationships really look like while exploring what the root of certain feelings and actions may be. They offer examples of how changing your reactions and involvement as a parent can help your kids learn to navigate their relationships independently and more effectively.

Siblings Without Rivalry was written to help parents foster, not perfectly loving siblings, but more productive sibling interaction.

MY KEY TAKEAWAYS

This book taught me a lot about siblings and how important that relationship really is. Siblings effect so much of each other and parents effect so much of how siblings view themselves and each other.

While reading, I couldn’t help but think back to my own childhood. The way I interacted with my siblings, the role I took in my family, and how all of that has effected my adulthood and the relationships I now have with my siblings. I thought about how my parents would let us fight and how that’s helped me to be comfortable with confrontation in my adult relationships. I thought about the fact that I’ve felt like a problem at times and a loved part of the family at others and how all of that shaped the actions and decisions I’ve made.

Ultimately, I realized that your family really can shape your entire being so it’s important to do the best you can, as the parent, to make sure each child is given the opportunity to become the best version of themselves and Siblings Without Rivalry has given me the insight to understand how to do that for each of my children.

HOW YOU TREAT YOUR KIDS INDIVIDUALLY CAN DETERMINE THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH EACH OTHER

You know those “roles” people play in a family. There’s the perfect child, the problem child, the silly child, the what-have-you child. Humans love labels and as a parent it can be easy to label your children from day one.

I remember going on and on about how my first child would be peaceful and kind before he was even born. As if somehow his gentle movements in the womb could determine his whole demeanor for the rest of his life. In reality, it’s not fair to sum up a whole person in one word. These views are usually based on the actions of our kids when they are little and have terrible impulse control. They may not truly have anything to do with the traits and capabilities of our children, but the impulses they have towards the environment they’re in. 

“What I’m seeing now is that it’s up to the parent to set the tone, to make it clear that no one in the family is ‘the problem.’”

The danger in labeling your kids too soon is that you’re putting your kids in a box. You’re not letting them be a whole person. Your perfect child doesn’t get the chance to express their negative feelings which can prohibit honesty. Your problem child doesn’t get the chance to believe they can be good which can make them feel like their only choice is the wrong choice.

And with these labels, our kids can begin to view each other in these roles which can lead to resentment. Your perfect child may begin to believe your problem child is the one preventing them from having the freedom to express negative feelings. Your problem child can begin to believe your perfect child is constantly in the spotlight. And then, these roles can follow them into adulthood, making each child feel like they’re only allowed or capable of being only part of a person rather than a whole entire person.

So for the sake of your children’s relationship and your children’s futures, it’s important for each of them to know they’re allowed to venture outside of their natural tendencies. They’re all allowed to have negative feelings and actions and you believe they’re all capable of doing good.

IT’S IMPORTANT TO LET YOUR KIDS FIGHT

“Not till the bad feelings come out can the good ones come in.”

Whether your kids love each other or hate each other, the way you allow them to interact can shape how they interact with others now and later in life. This delicate relationship between your children is the perfect teaching moment for how your kids should treat peers and how they should expect their peers to treat them.

How you react to your kids stems from how your parents reacted to you. It’s so common for parents to reject negative feelings in their kids and to feel like it’s wrong to express them because so many of us were told it was wrong for us to express our negative feelings. The reality is, the more your force the negative feeling to stay in, the less they will be dealt with and the longer they will stew and grow out of proportion.

“Insisting on good feelings between the children led to bad feelings. Acknowledging bad feelings between the children led to good feelings.”

So when kids are fighting, they’re always fighting about something. There’s always a very legitimate root to every negative feeling. But they’re kids. They don’t have the experience or developmental ability to rationally and calmly explain the exact thing they’re upset about. Half the time they feel something, that feeling is so intense that all they truly know is that they have a feeling, but not always why. So they scream at you, they scream at their sibling, and only after they’re done expressing the feeling can they truly understand and communicate the “why.”

“But here’s the difference: We intervene, not for the purpose of settling their argument or making a judgement, but to open the blocked channels of communication so that they can go back to dealing with each other.”

So we don’t have to let our kids become violent. We don’t have to allow them to be cruel. If they get stuck on a loop, we can help them move forward. But we absolutely have to allow them to have their negative feelings and learn to sort through them together however they need to. It’s completely unrealistic to believe a healthy relationship between two people can come without conflict and fighting. We need to allow our children to experience that in their relationships so they can learn how to deal with real adult relationships in the future. Our job is not to tell them their feelings and expression are wrong, but to give them a safe place to learn to deal with their feelings so they can learn to express them productively and considerately. But they will never learn that as long as we’re telling them to stop fighting and “get along.”

EQUAL IS NOT FAIR AND FAIR IS OVERRATED

I think we all, at one point or another, have said the words, “That’s not fair.” Whether it was when we were young or even now in our adulthood. Fair is another thing I think we all grew up believing was right and unfair was wrong. That unfair meant you were receiving less, even though fair was never really as satisfying as we thought it would be.

“That was when I realized how futile it was to ever try to make things equal. The children could never get enough, and as a mother, I could never give enough.”

I think this comes from the desire to not show favoritism or make one kid feel less important than the other. So when one gets attention, we think the other should get the same amount of attention. The problem is, each child may not need the same amount or type of attention we gave the other. One may be hungry and need extra pancakes, while the other may only want more pancakes now because they saw their sibling get more.

But when you start playing that game, the fair game, you stop addressing the individual needs and qualities of each child. You don’t give them an opportunity to learn empathy for one another. To see and realize that others have needs that are different from theirs and sometimes others will get something they don’t.

Beyond that, “fair” can become “same” and same takes away from your kid’s ability to feel like a unique individual.

“By valuing and being partial to each child’s individuality, we make sure that each child feels like a number one child.”

When dealing with your kids, it’s okay to give one child something without giving every child something. Attempting to make everyone happy and “equal” will not only drive you crazy, but it won’t truly make each child feel special or uniquely cared for in the long run.

“To be loved equally is somehow to be loved less. To be loved uniquely - for ones own special self - is to be loved as much as we need to be loved.”

So if you’re a parent of siblings or simply a sibling yourself, this book can help you navigate the intricate and delicate world of siblings. Not only can it help you allow your kids to flourish independently together, but you may learn something new about your own sibling dynamics that could heal any wounds that may have come about.

BOOK CLUB: NO BAD KIDS BY JANET LANSBURY

BOOK CLUB: NO BAD KIDS BY JANET LANSBURY - This Wild Home

This book was my introduction to Janet Lansbury and the world of respectful parenting. I’ve seen blogs and articles on respectful parenting, but the flow of this book really helped me to understand how to implement this way of parenting into my own life.

I’m excited to share this because, while it totally changed the mood of my home and family, I’ve found that the practices I’ve learned have helped me to take on the whole world with a new perspective. Yes, I truly believe it’s helped me to be a better mom, but also a better wife, friend, and all around person. The patience and intention you need to effectively handle a toddler are amazing tools for treating everyone around you with more respect and a calmer demeanor to make anyone you meet feel more understood.

ABOUT THE BOOK

So, what is this book all about anyway?

It’s about handling toddlers. It’s the idea that the negative reactions and emotions our toddlers feel are not the result of a bad kid. It’s helping you to realize that toddlerhood is not your sweet baby suddenly turning into a demon child. That bad behaviors are not a sign that you’re doing everything wrong.

In No Bad Kids, Lansbury takes real life situations and guides you through a respectful solution with encouraging words to help you navigate the intense world and emotions that your toddler experiences. With letters that have been sent to her from parents in need along side Landbury’s experiences in her many years of being a parent and coaching parents, you get to not only see the practices played out in everyday moments, but you also see that you are not alone in the struggles of being a parent.

This book is not about creating perfect children or eliminating tantrums and limit-pushing. It’s about understanding our children so we can better guide them to reaching their full potential.

MY KEY TAKEAWAYS

Basically, I have taken every word of this book to heart. I didn’t find a single aspect that I didn’t agree with. I learned so much and will forever be grateful for the impact Lansbury’s lessons will have on me and my family.

So, for the sake of not giving too much away or making this post a book in and of itself, here are my top five take aways from the wonderful words of No Bad Kids:

DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY

There are a few reasons why this may be the most important thing I learned. Even in the book it states that this is rule #1. It’s a dangerous road to go down, believing your child’s actions are intentional schemes against you. Even if they are subconsciously acting out because we aren’t giving them something they need, they still have no idea what they’re doing or why they’re doing it.

“When a toddler feels understood, he senses the empathy behind our limits and corrections. He still resists, cries, and complains, but at the end of the day, he knows we are with him, always in his corner.”

I would say there are two top reasons why it’s important to never take our children’s actions personally.

  1. Our feelings are not our kid’s responsibility. | They should not be able to control our happiness. They shouldn’t ever be given the idea that they are the keepers of our emotions. It’s a big responsibility to be in charge of, not only your own happiness, but also the happiness of others. While we as the parents should be aware of our effects on our child’s happiness and well being, they should never be given the responsibility of ours. When they feel responsible for such a major thing, it may actually encourage them to act out more just to push us to take that responsibility away from them (subconsciously, of course).

  2. It makes it difficult to stay “unruffled.” | This is a word Lansbury uses a lot: unruffled. It’s basically frazzled, out of control, frustrated, etc. It is the state we can find ourselves in when we haven’t set proper boundaries. The thing about taking things personally is, it ignites an instinctive response to protect yourself. It will prevent you from being as patient as you could be if you realized your child is just attempting to express something they may not fully understand. When you take their extreme behavior personally, you’re limiting your ability to be the rational adult they need you to be.

NO, KIDS ARE NOT IN CHARGE

I’d say one of the biggest misconceptions about respectful parenting is who is truly in charge. If I’m being honest, in the beginning of the book, I was a little weary because at times I felt like I had to let my toddler walk all over me in order to show that he is in a safe, respectful environment.

As I kept reading, I realized that is not the case.

Respectful parenting is not about letting your kids do whatever they want. It’s about learning to respond in an appropriate and respectful manner. It’s about understanding their abilities and making sure they know they are heard, even if it won’t change your mind.

“Children do not feel hurt when the adults they desperately need establish behavioral boundaries. It is easier for a parent to indulge a child than it is to be firm and consistent, and children know that. A child may cry, complain or even throw a tantrum when limits are set. In their hearts, however, children sense when a parent is working ardently to provide a safe nest and real love.”

And that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about saying, “it’s okay to misbehave.” In fact, a big part of respectful parenting is making sure you set clear boundaries, especially ones that will keep you from getting unruffled, and correcting behavior before you feel an unruffled feeling coming on. It is saying that it’s okay to be upset when you correct them, but that you are still there to correct them when needed. They’re not in charge, but they have a right to feel. They have a right to tell you when they don’t like your rules.

BOUDARIES ARE CRUCIAL

Boundaries are everything for kids. In fact, I was talking to a friend of mine about boundaries and she shared a story about kids on a playground. It stated that when kids we on a playground with no fence, the stayed close to the play structure, never venturing too far beyond. Where as the kids who had a fence around their play area were more likely to venture all the way to the fence, exploring freely within their clearly defined boundaries.

The world is a scary and exciting place, especially when you’re brand new to it all. As much as kids want to explore, they also want to be sure they have someone looking out for them, keeping them safe from harm.

That’s where boundaries come in. Whether they are able to understand the boundary outright or try to fight you on it, in the end we know and they know that it’s for the best. They’ll fight you on it because that’s their job. But boundaries are our way of saying we care and that we want to help them. It’s our way of letting them know they have security and something they can rely on as they discover the wide world of unknowns.

“Imagine driving over a bridge in the dark. If the bridge has no railings, we will drive across it slowly and tentatively. But if we see railings on either side of us, we can drive over the bridge with ease and confidence. This is how a young child feels in regard to limits in his environment.”

LANGUAGE IS IMPORTANT

I would say this is something I needed a wake up call on: The way that I talk to my son.

I’ve heard the bits about talking to kids normally without a baby voice. But being direct is something I definitely needed to work on. The “mommy says” and “we can’t” etc. just doesn’t cut it for kids. It gives them an out. It creates a disconnect where you’re no longer having a conversation between the two of you, but instead you’re telling a story about two characters.

“Babies are whole people – sentient, aware, intuitive and communicative. They are natural learners, explorers, and scientists able to test hypotheses, solve problems, and understand language and abstract ideas.”

I think the motivation behind “baby talk” is the idea that are kids only understand as much as they can express. After practicing some of the lessons I learned in this book, I’ve found that my 1.5 year old understands so much more than I thought. He knows what more things are than he can say, he understand more abstract concepts than I have given him credit for. He gets it and now that I talk to him like he gets it, he wants to listen more. By no means does he do everything I say, he definitely still gives push back. But I’ve found that talking to him the same way I’d talk to any other human has not only helped us in understanding each other, but has helped him develop his communication skills as well.

PUNISHMENTS ARE NOT THE ANSWER

I love this. I love it so much. I am definitely an anti-punishment parent. And I think this is the part where people want to ask, “Then doesn’t that put the kids in charge?”

I feel like I have even more to learn on this before I could give any real insight on why this is amazing, but I’ll just share a few lessons from Janet because, if I haven’t already mentioned, she’s my queen now.

This may seem a little too new-agey on the outside, but when seeing the thought process for the argument against punishments, it all makes a lot of sense. In No Bad Kids, Lansbury mentions the correlation between the concepts of punishments and discipline. She then offers another perspective given by her queen, Magda Gerber. Gerber redefines the modern idea of discipline by pulling from the latin root, disciplina, meaning “instruction, knowledge.” So with this in mind, discipline goes from, “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience” to, “educating our children to understand appropriate behavior, values, and how to control their impulses.”

With this mindset shift on our role in our children’s lives, things like spanking and timeout become unproductive. It is a parent-given consequence that you wouldn’t, and really shouldn’t, see in the real world. These actions aren’t seizing a teaching moment, they are hindering your ability to not only become closer to your child by showing them you understand them, but to teach them through example; which is really where they’re learning everything in the long run.

“So the question is never ‘Are the learning?’ It’s ‘What are they learning?”

In all of my actions around my son, I wonder what he is learning. Is he learning to be respectful of other people and their feelings? Is he learning to be respectful of his own feelings?

The scary thing about punishments is that they can instill fear in our children. They can make them afraid of us and themselves. Punishments teach our kids that their feelings, something they have no control over, are wrong. When you hurt, belittle, or shame your kids for simply being kids, for going against us or acting out (things they are SUPPOSED to be doing), you’re not teaching them that their actions are inappropriate. Instead, you’re teaching them that they are bad. And some kids may carry that label with them throughout their days, always choosing the path the “bad kid” would take simply because they were taught that that is who they are.

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Parenting is a big deal. We all know this. We’re all at least somewhat aware of the impact we have on our children. That is why books like this are important. It’s important to have a reminder of what we’re really teaching our kids. It’s important to get a new perspective from someone who has studied and practiced all the things they preach.

Books like No Bad Kids help us to remember that, not only are our kids inherently good, but that we were born good too. We all grew up with certain standards and were taught lessons that may have not been fair to us. No matter what we learned growing up, no matter what labels were put on us or standards shown to us, we have the ability to be good and to teach goodness to our kids.

Also, for a chance to receive your own Book Club book in the future, keep up with my instagram stories where I giveaway a book to one lucky follower!