Happy Siblings for Mother’s Day

PeacefulParentHappySiblingsCoverWouldn’t it be nice if your Mother’s Day gift from your children would be their promise never to fight again and to love each other always. As much as we try for sibling love and harmony, we cannot make it happen. But we can influence their relationship, their treatment of one another and the respect and support they give each other. In her new book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings, Dr. Laura Markam shows us step by step, complete with dialogue, how to stop the fighting and build thoughtful, considerate connections between our children.

Instead of punishing, banishing, labeling, fixing the problem, and otherwise setting our children up to compete with one another, this book helps parents understand how important it is to connect with each child’s emotional state so that they learn to understand and respect each other’s. When that happens, children are well equipped to work out their differences through problem solving and conflict resolution with you acting as “interpreter” and coach rather than judge and jury.

Dr. Markam and I could not agree more on the power of connection to help children learn to both understand and then regulate their emotions. When we connect with each child’s individual needs, we help build their self-confidence and thus their capacity to resolve conflicts with each other now and in relationships throughout their lives.

Laura and I both work with parents who will try anything to make their kids get along and stop screaming at each other. We also both know that frustrated parents don’t want to spend a lot of time and know-how to make this happen when all they want is for their kids to just do what they say.

Do not try this at home.
Do not try this at home.

We also both agree on why this picture, that so many parents find funny and a good idea, is just plain wrong. Why? Because of the underlying foundation of our parenting philosophies: Compassion.

Finding this photograph funny means that the feelings of the children don’t matter—and the children know it. They are being forced to “get along”, which is not the most effective method of helping children actually get along. Among the eight reasons that Laura gives about why this picture is a bad idea is that it “humiliates both kids, so it teaches them that people with power get their way by using force to humiliate and subdue smaller people”—good training for bullying. And of course it “makes each child more upset and angry for which they—naturally—blame their sibling.”

Instead Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings guides the parent through problem solving and conflict resolution to help their kids work through their problems rather than punish, reprimand reactively, or force an apology. By being your child’s guide first by connecting compassionately and then with problem solving skills, you are “empowering [your child] to see himself as a generous person who can make things better when he’s done something hurtful.”

Every child has a reason for behaving the way they do. These reasons are often hidden from the parent—He just whacked her for no reason at all! We must understand that there is always a reason. When the parent is able to connect with the child’s internal emotions, her feelings can be purged. Sometimes it’s just plain hard to have to share me with a little sister can bring on healing tears. Laura even suggests “scheduled meltdowns” to help children tap into those emotions trapped inside that provoke hurtful behavior. She says, “Fortunately children are designed to heal themselves by surfacing their hurts, just like their immune system will push an infection to the surface to heal. All you have to do is support his natural process by creating safety.”

Kids fight. We both agree that sibling fighting is fertile territory where the ins and outs of life’s relationships are learned. But when resentment and anger keep siblings mostly on the fighting range, they need our help to learn skills that repair their relationship—skills that last a lifetime. Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings is the help you need to help your children.

So for Mother’s Day, I want to offer you a copy of Dr. Markam’s book as a giveaway to one of you. All you need to do is make a comment below about your siblings up until midnight, Saturday May 16. On Sunday May 17, using a random number generator, I will choose the winner who will receive a free copy of Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings.

In the meantime, listen in on a conversation that Laura and I recently had about sibling relationships. We covered a lot of territory — https://goo.gl/2AM7IH

32 thoughts on “Happy Siblings for Mother’s Day

  1. My siblings and I had “typical” arguments as kids. As adults now. we are not that close. We don’t have any problems in our relationships, but we’re just not really close. I want my kids to have much stronger relationships.
    Thanks for giving away a copy of the book!

  2. I’m an only child. I am now the mother of 4. Trying to figure out sibling relationships is new (and frustrating) to me. My middle two are where the most frustration stems. They are both boys and are only 16 months apart. I’d love to learn more about how to help them navigate this relationship and form a strong bond while also not losing my mind! Thank you for the chance to win!

    1. Michelle – Be sure and listen to the conversation I had with Laura. I think you will find some help there. And both Laura and I do individual consults if you would like.

    2. Michelle –
      Congratulations! You are the winner from a random number generated drawing!

  3. My sister and I fought a lot when she was the cool older sister ( beginning at about age 13) and I was her dorky younger sister. We weren’t particularly close during that time but as adults, we are very close. My boys are 2 years apart and the oldest just turned 13. I see the same pattern playing out! My oldest can be such a grump to his younger brother and rarely says ” Hey, good job!” Or ” that’s cool”. I know I can’t force him to be nice but I wish he’d realize how much his younger brother looks up to him. The book sounds like it’d be helpful!

  4. I work with families in the early stages of sibling development- young children expecting a new sibling, and I am often called upon to help with giving open-hearted assistance to several children at once in my role as a teacher in a multi-age infant/toddler program. I am interested in what the book might have for the families in my care including my children and their families.

    1. Kathy – there is a whole section in this book on helping older sibs when a new baby comes.

  5. I’ve just read your Mothers Day newsletter. Thank you for sharing. That’s pretty much me in a nutshell. And my girls are also caught in the middle of conflict between their parents. A court psychologist has suggested that they spend time apart, when my intuition tells me that they need to spend time together with each parent. Happy Mothers Day.,

    1. Sally – Hard to say without knowing the situation but my tendency is to agree with you.

  6. I have two girls, two years apart, aged 8 and 10. They often play well together when they are in the backyard, or when I am in a different room. However, when I am right there with them, they begin to tell on each other, use angry voice tones when talking to each other, etc. I have always tried to teach them to express their feelings and work out a solution, but when I am right there with them, they seem intent on fighting. I work at a very stressful job and when I am home with them it is very hard to scrape up the energy to figure this out and do something about it.

    1. Keep telling them that you are not the one to talk to. Encourage them to turn what they are saying to you toward their sister.

  7. My two daughters would love me to be able to help them deal with their normal sibling rivalry in a calm and considerate manner. I would love to stop shouting and looking up to the heavens!

  8. I find changing my responses to my children’s interactions such hard work. As you and Dr Markham say in your conversation there is a lot of ‘deep work’ required to change my natural response to my children’s problems when they push my buttons (which comes from the years of learning from my parent’s parenting) to a new supportive response; to hear what is underlying their issues.

    I make daily ‘mistakes’ but I feel that I am gradually changing my approach and moving closer to my goal: being connected and understanding of my children’s needs so I can support them individually and in their interactions with each other.

    1. It can be very hard work, Natalie, but I promise you there is no work on this earth that is more worth it and more satisfying in the long run. I highly recommend my book “When Your Kids Push Your Buttons” which can help you on the journey. It’s also available in a teleseminar version that you can learn about from my homepage. And Laura and I both do this kind of work with parents, so there is help out there for you.

  9. I work with mothers doing Mother-Infant attachment work. It is common in my work to see stressed mothers who feel frustrated and overwhelmed with sibling rivalvy. I think this book would be a wonderful resource.

  10. My son is 7 and my daughter 6 – they are 18 months apart. They are best mates but also fight like cat and dog as well which can be incredibly wearing – especially since my son’s extra strength and body weight means that my daughter often ends up getting hurt and dissolves into tears and wailing. I am very conscious of the fact that I shouldn’t immediately jump to “what have you done to your sister?!” when the tears are flowing, as that would be blaming him when the root could just as easily have lain with her – but I also also don’t want to over-compensate and end up not giving her the comfort that she needs. Having done your course, I am conscious that I should be trying to find ways to help them sort out their own battles rather than jump in as judge myself, but it is hard to know how (and in the heat of the moment, also very hard not to overreact and just yell “will you stop fighting!!). This book sounds very useful – thank you for doing the giveaway!

    1. Steph – Try soothing your daughter with no attention on your son, no blame. Then when she is calmer, ask your son if he’d like to get the icepack/cold washcloth/bandaid, etc. He might be eager to make amends when he’s not blamed. Remember his intention is probably not to hurt her the way it turned out.

  11. Thanks for offering this giveaway! I have two boys, age 6 and 11 who can play together for hours or not be able to be in the same room for two minutes – especially if we are in ear shot. This book looks like a wonderful companion to “When Your Kids Push Your Buttons”.

  12. I have a nearly 5yr old daughter and a 6mth old baby boy. I really want to know how to ensure these two grow up with strong bond and close to one another.

  13. I don’t have any siblings, which makes me need this book as I embark on the journey of parenting 2 girls.

  14. Peaceful Parenting = what an ideal! With all the stresses and emotional reactivity that arise, it seems impossible. Yet it is what I think we all long for. Having the knowledge and skills to parent is a major undertaking. Thank you for providing some wisdom and help!

  15. After just having my 3rd girl, i am needing a stronger foundation to raise my kids on. I always thought of myself as a pretty patient person. I feel bad about the way I have been reacting to them but find it hard to control and handle the chaos. I hope I win the book! Thank you for your support 🙂

  16. For the most part,I don’t remember getting along great with my sibs (two older, one younger). I seem to remember the negative side and how the older two would gang up on me and tease me. Mom would be exasperated by all the yelling and tattling and not really offer any solutions other than yelling at us, threatening with a “wait till your father gets home” or taking sides & maybe giving a smack to the “guilty” party.
    Not the best of memories..
    I have three kids 4,7 & 10. They are the best & worst of friends. I have a strong inclination to improve my skills at the toughest job out there. I’ve examined my buttons and try to respect everyone’s agendas, but their screaming can still drive me up a wall. I try not to jump in & blame, and I try to listen without judgement. I try to let them work it out on their own and distance myself as best I can, assuming it is safe to do so. I parrot back what they are saying and try not to get sucked into the drama. Sometimes I’ll offer advice. Inevitably the middle one (son) will continue to rant and rave to no avail. It is so verbally abusive having to listen to him that we send him to his room to spare our ears. Sometimes he calms down and is fine. Other times he freaks out more. I make it a point to go in to his room and try my hardest to just be with him. It can take awhile, but he will eventually calm down. I am thinking he must have some sort of sensory processing disorder which makes it very hard for him to regulate his emotions……but that is a different story.
    At any rate, any new suggestions to help bring about a peaceful coexistence would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Brenda! How is Downunder treating you? Sounds like you have your hands full. I know that sometimes it’s really hard to put conflict resolution skills in practice when you have at least one uncooperative kid who sounds like he needs to calm before anything can be discussed. Make sure he understands that you’re asking him to go to his room because you think its best for him to get away from the others for a bit—so he understands it’s not a punishment. Don’t force it if you think he sees it that way. I would try talking to the kids together well after everyone has calmed. They won’t want to go over it again but if you can get them to understand it is benefitting them to understand and hear from each other and that no one is getting in trouble or being told what to do, you might have some luck.

  17. Hi Bonnie
    I sometimes find it hard when my 9 year old son (who I feel experiences a lot of jealousy of his 5 year old sister) hits or hurts her… my process of defusing my buttons often requires me to walk away and breathe before I can respond when emotions are down, but he is often hurting her. My button meter goes off the scale in this situation but I feel I need to protect her so I can’t walk off as I need to get between them. I guess if I can focus on breathing while I’m trying to keep them apart and all the other steps to defusing my buttons in order to become a bit more clear and objective without having to walk off in this instance. What do you think?

    1. Hi Amelia – Get between with one or two words—Stop! Then use the no-blame approach (in Confident Parents: Remarkable Kids). Comfort your daughter with no-blame to your son. When she is calm, ask your son if he’d like to get an ice-pack, washcloth, bandaid, etc.) to hold on her hurt. When there is no-blame, there is opportunity for making amends.

  18. My younger sisters and I fought like there was no tomorrow as children. Arguing, pulling hair, chasing, etc.—I remember wishing I could punch one of them in the face, but being worried about getting in trouble. Couldn’t wait to grow up and get away from them! As adults, we have grown close and found commonalities as parents and now as children of aging parents. Looking back, it’s amazing that we get along as well as we do, considering how tumultuous things were when we were little.

    I found your site through the “ahaparenting.com” website, a site I just discovered but am utilizing for my work as an early interventionist.

    1. Brenda – This is a very common theme. We don’t have to panic when our kids fight. it doesn’t mean they always will. But sometimes, when the fighting comes from deep resentment, the wounds can last a lifetime.

  19. thank you for offering this giveaway, bonnie! i have a younger brother who i shared my childhood with on a daily basis. we fought a lot without any adults around most of the time and managed to work our way through it all. 🙂

  20. Hi Bonnie,

    My siblings and I were never really close for various reasons, so when my second son arrived 7 months ago it was already on my mind that I wanted them to get along. Since I feel like I don’t have a good internal model to guide me, I’m really looking forward to reading this book for today and the many years of sibling bonding and fighting ahead!

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