Round Table Discussion: Are You Fostering Sibling Relationships or Sibling Rivalries?

Written by Mandy on July 24th, 2015

Balance, Family Structure, Gentle Discipline

NPN RTD featureThis post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life by Dr. Laura Markham, author of  Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.

We would like to think that when we give our children siblings, we are giving them life-long friends. After all, some day we will be gone and our children will be there for each other. Sometimes, however, our children can seem more like enemies than friends, with altercations coming left and right.

There are several factors that come into our children’s relationships with one another. Sometimes personalities are just so different that our children don’t seem to have much in common. Maybe their personalities even grate on one another’s nerves. Depending on the spacing between our children and their individual developmental stages, it may be difficult for them to understand the other points of view. Sometimes artificial social constructs come into play.

Photo by Ken Wilcox (Flickr)

Photo by Ken Wilcox (Flickr)

However, the largest source of potential conflict (which happens to be something we can influence) is us. Just as our children have needs for resources such as food, clothing, and mental stimulation, they also need us. We are probably the most important resource to them when they are young, as we are their main source of love, safety, and a litmus for how they are doing in life. When someone else also needs that resource, it can become a competition.

It can, but it doesn’t have to. The way we present ourselves and interact with our children plays a major role in how they will then interact with one another.

The first step is in meeting everyone’s needs. Our children need to know they are loved, loved deeply, and loved for the individuals they are. When children feel loved, they feel secure to be themselves.

Secondly, children need our presence and attention. They need to connect. When children feel connected with a loving adult, they are able to then connect with others.

They need to feel acknowledged and appreciated for who they are rather than compared to their siblings.

They need us to model loving relationships. This is how they learn to have other relationships. If we shame, punish, and manipulate our children, they will learn to do that to other people, including their siblings.

Our children need us to help coach them through conflicts. While we learn throughout our lives, childhood is a major time of learning. They don’t need us to take sides in conflicts but to help mediate and talk them through how to resolve the conflicts.

Conflict is a part of life. Living a peaceful life with your family doesn’t mean never having conflict. Having a peaceful life means having successful, and respectful, resolution of conflict when it occurs.


Interested in reading more about the concepts in the third chapter of Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings? Check out these posts by Natural Parent Network volunteers:

How to Have Special Time with Two (or more) Kids at Once  When life is too busy for individual special time with both of her kids, Dionna at Code Name: Mama tries to create some space for one-on-one time with each kid while they are all together. She shares a few things they do together to fill their love tanks.

I Don’t Love My Children the Same  At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy dares to admit that she doesn’t love her children the same and why that is a good thing.

Do Your Kids Get Along?  There are four kids at the MomeeeZen household. And Kat often gets asked if they get along. Read on to see what she has to say about that!


About The Author: Mandy

My NPN Posts

Mandy O'Brien is an unschooling mom of five. She's an avid reader and self-proclaimed research fanatic. An active advocate of human rights, Mandy works to provide community programs through volunteer work. She is a co-author of the book Homemade Cleaners, where simple living and green cleaning meet science. She shares a glimpse into her life at Living Peacefully with Children, where she writes about various natural parenting subjects and is working to help parents identify with and normalize attachment parenting through Attachment Parents Get Real.

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