Siblings and Rivalry

SistersThe only management parallel I could think of for this post is the heinous practice that some managers have of pitting one employee against another for the “boss’ favor.” Yes, sibling rivalry is alive and well in corporate America, particularly where the hierarchy is very rigid and bureaucracy has layers that can only be navigated well with the help of someone higher up the food chain.

But back to parenting.

I recently heard a report on the news about the importance of sisters and their relationships. Not only with each other but also with male siblings and parents.

Evidently, just the presence of a sister in the family structure somehow makes most of them healthier. Their openness to communication and ability to get everyone talking, even when things are tense, and to allow male members of the family to talk about deeper emotional subjects raises the stability quotient of the entire family.

I found this fascinating.

The report said that the most common reason for fighting or bad feelings between sisters was competition for their mother’s attention. It made me very happy I read “Siblings Without Rivalry” by Faber & Mazlish before having my second daughter.

Is my daughters’ relationship perfect? Of course not. They have their peeves with each other (particularly when they have to spend long periods of time together) and are very different people with different goals and ways of doing things.

But there is a strong, and I think unbreakable bond of love between them, and a devotion to each other that is beautiful to see.

Parenting Toolbelt Tip: Read “Siblings Without Rivalry” by Faber & Mazlish before or when you get pregnant and start using those techniques before the second baby is born. Not kidding; it will change your whole experience and set your kids up for a lifetime friendship instead of a lifetime competition. I know; I have the second scenario in my life and it is no fun.

There are a few cardinal rules in that book that I can’t stress enough:

  • Don’t ever put one in charge of the other. Why? Well, first of all, what would be the effect if something bad really did happen? Lifetime guilt? Trauma – the gifts that keep on giving? Also, when you give one sibling power over another, you put the scales of their relationship out of balance. Only you or your designated overseer is in charge. Never them…not when it comes to each other. One will have power and will likely abuse it and the other will feel powerless and will look to change that and it will end in tears.
  • They have been born into different families and you need to understand and respect that. The first child has imprinted on you and identifies with the adults in the family. The second child comes along, looks around and sees the first and says “Hey, you’re about my size…you and me!” and the first replies, “Sorry bud, I’m with them.” Different families, different memories and different dynamics and when you get that, it explains many behaviors.
  • You must NEVER compare them. You may love and appreciate them for their unique qualities, but never, ever make the mistake of favoritism. And don’t let your family or extended family do it either. Comparisons are toxic and have destroyed more families than money issues ever did.

Spend time with each of them individually and let them know how special you think they are. Not in comparison to their siblings, but just for themselves. Revel in your children’s talents, generosity, enthusiasms, interests and whatever else they will share with you.

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