Archive d’étiquettes pour : siblings

And here we come to the heart of it.

It took a little time? Yes, but before that, he had to understand the dynamics of this brother/sister relationship. And it’s only now when we better understand the previous points that we are equipped to respond well in the event of fighting…

Fights which, in fact, should be less frequent, just because our other changes have encouraged a more harmonious relationship.

Thus, if there is a good relationship between the children, they argue less, and know better how to manage their conflicts.

In general, we’ll try not to intervene in conflicts, and let them develop their own methods of resolution.
There will of course always be cases where our intervention is necessary.
In this case, try the following steps:

1 – Start by acknowledging the children’s anger towards each other. That alone should help calm them.

2 – Listen to each child’s side with respect

3 – Show appreciation for the difficulty of the problem

4 – Express faith in their ability to work out a mutually agreeable solution 

5 – Leave the room


If we get to the point where it’s already past talking, we can take a slightly more interventionist approach, first inquiring: « Are you playing or fighting? », then reminding the rule: « play fighting by mutual consent only », and finally, possibly: « I understand that you play, but it’s too brutal for me. « I wish that you find another activity. »

Sometimes, we have to intervene more strongly because it is already at an advanced level of the fight, for example when one is about to hit the other!

1 – It may seem ridiculous, but start by describing the situation. It helps to get another perspective on what we’re doing…
« I see a boy who is about to hit the other! »
2 – Set the limits
« We don’t hurt each other! »
3 – Separate the children to let them breathe
« I think that you two need a cooling-off period… »

This is already quite a lot of skills to test, and to put in place.

The chapter however does not stop there. In fact, it makes you want to split into several chapters, because there are many situations, and there are lots of good advice here.


So, let’s follow with what I will call the

Part 2: the recurring situation

Ex: « she’s never ready in time to go to school… »

Then, we can start a process of conflict resolution, following these steps:
1 – A meeting between the protagonists. Explain the reasons for the meeting and the discussion rules.
2 – Write the feelings of each, and their recriminations, then read them aloud.
3 – Allow time for each one to respond to what the other has expressed.
4 – Invite everyone to come up with solutions. Write everything without judgment.
5 – Decide on the solutions that are suitable for all.
6 – Follow up

We already tried to implement this method. (In this precise example. Discussing with Oscar-13 years – and Alice – 8 years – about the time of departure for school, the need of each of them, and how one can adapt or not) and of course, it works much better to talk about the problem out of the heat moment. We can make decisions together, and then each one knows what limits are acceptable for the other.

On the other hand, we’ve been very bad on the follow-up. Is this a big deal? I don’t know… If the problem doesn’t arise anymore, one can think that there is no need to go back to it, but I actually think that
– It is a good idea to check if it worked before the same problem comes back, which can be very frustrating!
– If the problem is really solved, it is still worth taking time to note it, congratulate the children, and give them the opportunity to realize that this method of conflict resolution worked!

Note: this method is actually the same as the one seen in the end of the chapter on alternatives to punishment in How to talk so kids will listen…


Part 3: rather than take part…

Again, the children should resolve the issue. It’s darn hard on a daily basis, but it should not be the parent’s decision, otherwise, it is certain that at least one will judge it unfair (sometimes both), and will feel angry and bitter, towards the parent and the other child.

If we are in a situation where we are asked to take part, it is better to state the rule that will allow them to conclude by themselves:
« As I understand it, Thomas, you need pencils for your homework, and you want to finish coloring.
Homework always have priority, but Thomas, if you want to find an arrangement with your sister, you can. »
or: « She’d like to borrow this shirt for her party, but you won’t lend it to her because you fear she’ll damage it. Look, it’s your shirt and your decision, and it’s your choice to talk things out with your sister. »

In practice, I find that it doesn’t work that well… But at least it enables us to give our « decision » simply by reenforcing the rule, and let them understand it, rather than by imposing…


Part 4: Other piece of interest

How do we encourage sharing?
Since according to the previous point, you can’t force the sharing, how can you encourage it?
-putting children in charge of sharing when something is distributed
-highlighting the benefits of sharing
-allowing time for the child to integrate the idea (« He’ll tell you when he’s ready to share » – That works well!)
-showing your appreciation when sharing comes spontaneously
-modeling it!

Discourage tattling
A child telling on the other cannot contribute to them agreeing…
(We are talking here of a small thing that doesn’t impact the other one)
It is better not to encourage it.
« He did that? Tell him to come see me! » is not the right reaction: not only it gives satisfaction to the tale-bearer, but in addition, it implicates him in a role which is not his!
An appropriate response would be rather to go against our instincts, and say:
« I’m not comfortable hearing about what your brother is or isn’t doing… But if you want to tell me about yourself, I’m happy to listen. »

In the case where we have to vote, validate the frustration
Sometimes, when the group can’t decide, we proceed to a vote. No problem here, but it can be a good idea to point out to all: « Okay, so this is the decision, but we all know that one of us feels disappointed because he really wanted something else. »

Encourage teamwork
And this is the last point: do not hesitate to notice the moments where children work well together!
« You did this together? You make quite a team! »
Like when Oscar and Alice made their little brothers halloween costumes… They did a fantastic job! So you see… it is possible, don’t doubt about it!

Back to the book post

This is a theme that I now recognize well, and for which I don’t have to be convinced anymore. In French, you can call it « the weight of the tag ».

The more we « tag » a person, the more this person will fit the role we give him, negative or positive.
Negative, of course we don’t want that, but in fact, positive either: because it imposes a stressful standard (We can’t be super heroes, let’s accept our imperfection!).
We already talked about this in Liberated Parents, liberated children, in Chapter 7: the roles we cast them in.

Where do the roles come from?
Sometimes they come from the parents, because it’s natural, because we believe that we know so well our children, because one might be tempted to boost the ego of our child… but… at the expense of the other… Let »s avoid it!
Oh… And sometimes the role given by the parents simply comes from the birth order: the oldest must be more responsible, the smaller is more fragile, I consider that the big brother bothers his little sister because my older brother was bothering me…
Sometimes they come from the children themselves, or in any case, they are reinforced by the children, who see their interest.
Sometimes, they are pushed on by a sibling, who keeps on saying that the other child is… (Complete by whatever you want! Weak, wimpy, stupid…)
In all of the above, the child ends up in a situation in which he struggles to see himself other different from the image we give him.
Once again, we go back to an already discussed theme.
But here, the emphasis is on the impact on the siblings: how can we recognize the traits of character without doing so at the expense of others?

An example of the book deals with a girl who is learning the piano. She struggles, then realizes that her little sister can play the piece she has been working on, just from hearing her practice… Because of that, she feels it better to just stop taking classes, because she obviously doesn’t have talent for it.
I know exactly what I would have said in that case: « Yes, your sister is probably better for the piano, each one has his strengths and weaknesses, you’re better at (…). « But it doesn’t matter, don’t worry, just play at your level. »
However, if you look closely, I create with this answer a competition between children: « She is better at… » « You are better at… »
I prefer the answer suggested in the book: « I can imagine how it must be disheartening to hear your sister play your piece, but the way your sister plays has nothing to do with you. No matter how fast one can learn to play. What is important is how YOU interpret the piece, to know if you like playing it, if you enjoy that. It would be a shame to deprive you of that pleasure! »

With that answer, we do not deny the talent of the sister, but we’re disconnecting things, we are not in a comparative mode, we are focus on the one child.
Will I be able to learn to react like that?

Sometimes, the child can only maintain his role to the detriment of his sibling. And that explains that this theme is also very well fitted in this book.
Besides, the role of each one has an influence on the other.
We obviously find roles that respond to each others, like bully/victim, but we can also see simpler patterns that are still increased by comparison, like « I’m the one who does not forget my things » (personal example that had reasoned in me when reading Chapter 3 on comparison)

Then, how can we free the child to change?
Answer: Don’t lock him in his role, but treat it as if h was already out of it!
Ex of the distracted, to whom we entrust the task to remember to take everything that is necessary.
Ex of the aggressor, to whom we say clearly we know he knows how to obtain things without hitting.
You can even tell him, in the heart of the action:
« I know you have the ability to be nice, use it! »
And the way we see him needs to change not only for him but also for his environment: « You are angry about your brother ripping the toy off from you? I understand this! Yet, he knows very well how to be nice and ask for the toy when he wants to. »

I’m guessing that in every family, it’s the same: every child has his role…

At home, we find Alice (8) as the victim against Oscar (13), perpetrator. Reading this chapter, I realize that I don’t always answer very well…

But we also and especially get this labelling problem for Leon (4).
« Leon is a difficult child. » (Idea that spread in our broad family, not unfounded…) But really! The more we repeat it, the more true it will be!
However Leon is also a sensitive child, a smart kid, a child who likes challenges, a child who seeks to go further, a curious child, a creative child…
How to develop these images?
How to make sure we stop sending him the image of  the boy who gets angry « for nothing »?
Not obvious… Especially as the more it goes, the less we have the energy it takes to help him show his other face…
(Later note: we at least managed to talk to him about his pretty smile…)
Back to the book post

« Even though they seem to be wanting the same things, they don’t really. »
We are really going further on the theme of the previous chapter about comparison, as equality can only be judged from comparison!

First example od the book, that I find very good:
The dad is giving out pancakes to his boys.
One complains:
« You gave him more than me
– No, I gave each of you 4 pancakes
– Yes, but his are bigger !
– No they’re not. I made them exactly the same size. »

We’ve all been through that… Trying to convince the child that he has exactly the same as his brother/sister!

Here, the idea is to let go of comparisons, and focus on each one’s need :
« You gave him more than me!
– You are still hungry?
– Yes, a little
– You’d like half more, or you’re hungry enough for a whole one? »
And if there’s no more: show that we are putting a note on the fridge: « Buy enough to make more pancakes next time. » At least the kid will feel listened to, and we’ll have shown that his wanting more has nothing to do with what is in his brother’s plate !

And an extra note in case the scene turns into a fight between the brothers, and we want to express our discontentment: « If someone judges he doesn’t have enough, this is how I like to be asked: « Dad, when you’ll have a minute, could I have more please ? » »


Then, we can discuss about equality in terms of love
Well, there again, there is no equality, each is unique, that’s the message!!
We will thus reach further by replacing our « I love you each the same » by « Each of you is special for me. No one has your smile, your ideas! I am so happy to have you ! »


Lastly, an example that makes me think so much about what my father in law often says (without always putting it in practice): « What each one gets depends on his needs! »

We see a mum listening to her daughter planning her birthday, and the little brother is fighting for attention, because the discussion is getting too long to his taste.
The mother, trying to give time to each of them, cuts the conversation, and the little girl, not only is sad, but obviously also feels upset with her little brother !
The authors suggests to react differently, explaining the needs to the brother : « I know, I have already spent lot of time with your sister. That’s because we are planning her birthday party ! It is very important, and needs lot of work: we need to decide on the guests, on the activities, and I really need to be concentrated. I know it is not easy for you. When we are finished, I would love you to tell me what you have been doing meanwhile. »
Acting this way, not only we answer the girl’s need, but we also show the little brother that we are present when one of them needs us!

Of course the problem comes when the sum of each one’s needs goes above what we can offer… And with 4 kids, it is a situation we know. But that is also part of having siblings.
Theoretically, and that’s where them getting along comes in handy, they win in brotherhood what they loose in parents’ time…

So to be able to know what each need without comparing with the other, let’s refuse the comparison:
« He can…, he did…
– I am not interested in talking about your brother, I want to talk about you ! »

Back to the book post

Avoid comparisons.
It sounds logical… We probably won’t say « your sister do that better than you », or the other way around, and I think I could have said that in our house, we don’t compare.
But I realized it can be more subtle than that…
Sometimes we compare when we have strong feelings:
« Your sister has been in the car for 10 minutes, and you’re still not ready! »
Or to encourage them to act as the big one: « your brother can’t do that because he is still little, but you’re a big boy! »
Try to develop cooperation rather than competition.

That’s so true! How can we explain this:
The other day, we arrive at dance class, and I ask Alice (8 years):
« Did you think about your dance shoes? And your books for the French class afterwards?
Great! You’ve organized well, you’ve thought of everything without me telling you anything! »
Her answer:
« Oscar (13 years) would have forgotten everything, even if you told him! »
That might be true… But why does she need to make that comparison?
Do we need to crush others to feel good about ourselves?
That’s what I’d like to change…

So, following what the book says, I now spread the message at home that we do not compare. « Oscar is Oscar, Alice is Alice, one has nothing to do with the other! »

The key word: describe!
Describe what you see, what you like, what you don’t like, what needs to be done.
None of what her brother does has anything to do with her.

On a ce cas dans la maison avec le piano :
Alice a beaucoup, beaucoup de mal à s’y mettre. Est-ce que le fait d’avoir tant entendu que son frère avait décollé l’année dernière et qu’il était doué ne la freine pas encore plus ?

Let’s also note that the comparison can be harmful even when it is positive: as with roles (that we addressed in Chapter 6 of How to talk so kids will listen…), it imposes a standard which can be difficult to maintain. Besides, it can encourage the fact to criticize each other to keep the « good » role.
In the same vein, it is sometimes better to avoid to compliment a child too much when the other one is present…
I think we have that problem at home with the piano:
Alice has a very very hard time to practice. Doesn’t hearing so much that her brother’s playing really took off last year and that he was gifted slow her down even more?

Back to the book post

We don’t want to refrain children from what they want to express, we want to listen to what they have to say, even if it is negative feelings. (though obviously no right to hurt physically)
It is the only way that the child will feel listened to and understood, and only when he is listened to and understood he will be able to move on, and let positive feelings come in.

The chapter title is « Not till the bad feelings come out… », and we find out the rest later on : « can the good feelings come in ». I think that’s quite true.


I pick here the idea of keeping a journal to take notes of the interactions between the children. I think it is a very good idea to take a step back, and then discuss with the children, give them an outsider point of view when things have calmed down of what has been said. I’m starting to do it, but I struggle with the regularity of it, for the moment, I use it mainly for thinking, not yet for analyzing.

I laugh at the image given by the authors of the book:
« Imagine your husband (or wife) tells you that he loves you so much, that he thinks it’s so nice to have you, that he decided to have another wife… Oh.. and also, you will have to share your things with her, and pass along the clothes that don’t fit anymore, and take care of her… »
Ahahah, don’t we understand better how difficult it can be for children?
Let’s go further: « Feeling angry, you finally decide to talk to your spouse, you just tell him that you hate the new wife, he answers » Of course not, don’t say things like that! You love her! »or »I don’t like to hear you talk like that, I won’t hear anything of the sort! » … »
The metaphor is pretty good, right?


We then get to the methods and reactions that are more effective, at least to make the child feel listened:


1. Acknowledge the feelings by putting the into words
« You don’t like it when.. »
« It must upset you »

2 – Give them their wishes in fantasy
This I find pretty easy, just starting our answer with « You wish… ». This method we already saw in How to talk so kids will listen… and that we implemented with success!

3 – Encourage creative outlet
It could be drawing, writing.. It is a good method for evacuating strong emotion.
I had already tried this technique with Leon (3 years), as a result of reading the first chapter of How to talk so kids will listen..., and it worked very well. More recently, I have also tried with Alice (8 years) who didn’t want us to go out in the evening: « Draw a picture of how angry you are »
If it is difficult for them to write it, you may even be able to model it by drawing yourself… I have not tried that.

4 – Stop hurtful behavior
We don’t hit, we don’t insult, etc.
At home, here’s a sentence that came back several times a day, after reading this chapter:
« The rule is »we don’t hit, we don’t push, »express your anger with words! »
I realize writing it that we say it less and less, which proves that it’s been effective!

However, we’ve been through steps:
One day, getting out of school, Leon tells me he histone of his friends. I comment:
« But yet, Leon, you know the rule!
– No
– Leon, what is the rule?
– I don’t know!
– Leon, I think you know very well that the rule is « we don’t hit, we don’t push … »
– But, he interrupts, I also expressed my anger with words! »

It is difficult to measure progress in a house (and we’re back to the idea of the journal), but I think that things are progressing. Lately, I feel that I told Alice a lot to tell Oscar how she feels, and I think it has helped.

Back to the book post

If we think back to our own childhood, we realize that we also fought…

In fact, the relations we had as children with our siblings still have an impact on the person we are today. Because they were part of our construction process.

At my place, it was terrible.
I remember a letter from my grandpa « Fabrice, try and get through a day without bothering your sister; Coralie, try and get through a day without crying… »
Then later, when the neighbors had to intervene when my parents were out at night because I was screaming with my brother blocking me on the ground…

In short, I wonder how we made it, and how come we have such a good relationship today!! But, even when we were fighting like that, we loved each other.
And I also have lots of great memories of battles of reshofen, of fusball games, playing ball next to the bushes, of « call the friends »…
Thus the idea of this book is not to avoid any fight between our children, (and maybe they will never be friends) but it is at least to equip them with the skills they need to take care of their relationships.

And sure enough, the atmosphere at home will be impacted!

Back to the book post

This is the third book from Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish that I read, I am still enthusiastic!

In the introduction, they explain that this book was born from the fact that when they were writing How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk, their chapter about siblings just got out of hand, so much that it couldn’t be a chapter… It became its own book.

I don’t regret having read it!

Of course it goes around the same principles as How to talk so kids will listen…, but it is really focused on the relationships between brothers and sisters, on the way we can intervene in the dynamic, how to encourage positiveness.

At the beginning, I was a bit confused by the title.
Siblings without rivalry? But… fights between children are not always a matter of rivalry… There may be a difficult relationship without rivalry, isn’t it ?

Well, reading it, I realized that rivalry is much more insidious than we can imagine it to be. That a lot of agressive behaviors between children can in deed come from a certain form of rivalry, and that working on it enables us to dream about a better world!


  1. Brothers and sisters – Past and present
  2. Not till the bad feelings come out…
  3. The perils of comparisons
  4. Equal is less
  5. Siblings in roles
  6. When the kids fight
  7. Making peace with the past

(No post on the last chapter, just because it only sums up what has been said before)