I confess – I’m a junkie when it comes to self-help parenting books. I know many people who think it’s a waste of time, but when I feel clueless about a topic, it helps me to see what others have done before me.
I hadn’t opened up a parenting book since Ryan was 2+ and going through a hitting phase, but I’ve recently begun reading Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish and found myself highlighting a good deal of information. After all, I am an only child and I don’t really get the sibling relationship.
According to the authors through their years of research and discussions with countless parents, the root of sibling rivalry is the intense desire to be the one, the only, object of your parents’ attention and that a child will do whatever it takes - good or bad - to get that attention. There are tips galore on how to diffuse the raw and painful emotions a child feels when a newcomer joins the family and how to channel those emotions through safe outlets. It’s not just about childhood relationships, either. It’s about how these relationships can help shape a person’s view of themselves and even their decisions as adults. I do like the book so far, and truly believe that having an outlet for those emotions (and getting them out into the open) can ultimately create a stronger bond among siblings, but I’m not 100% sold yet.
Just today I had a chance to put some of the suggestions into action when I was holding Lexi and feeding her. Ryan decided he wanted to be held too, and let me know by transforming into a baby, complete with “Mama lap! MA-MA. Lappy!”
I said to him that I understood how sometimes it’s hard to share Mommy with his sister, to which he nodded. And then complained more. And talked like a baby.
To which I explained that I used to hold him when he was a baby to feed him and that I still hold him when we do lots of things and will again after Lexi is finished. To which he nodded. And then kept on whining about it.
So instead of using another tool from the book, my next thought was to tell him to act like a big boy and get used to the fact that his sister is here. I mean, really. There’s being sensitive to his emotions and then there’s coddling. I know he’s only a few weeks shy of 4 years old, but I can’t imagine having some serious talk every time he’s jealous.
Isn’t this life?
I plan to treat my kids as individuals – won’t compare report cards or talents, won’t expect more of one than the other, but life isn’t all rainbows and smiley stickers.
As parents, I know that we are that safe haven where our children can act on these emotions and feel comfortable in their vulnerability. But at some point, after indulging their emotions for a while, isn’t it okay to tell them to knock it off?
Help me out here. Do you remember specific jealous feelings regarding your sibling(s)? How did your parents make the situation better? Worse? What do you wish they would have said or done?