Siblings Without Rivalry: How to help your children live together so you can live too by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish:
Little Dude's preschool teacher recommended this book to me, and she is the calmest, most patient person around children that I know, so I was eager to take any advice that she could offer me. And I hadn't even asked for any advice, so maybe she just perceived that I could use some help (either that or Little Dude must have shared some stories of horror at the Bach House). Either way, I'm happy she led me to this book because it teaches you to become that same kind of parent that I see in our preschool teacher's demeanor: patient, understanding, fair, sympathetic and capable.
The book explores many different sibling issues: fighting, siblings being pinned into specific roles, parents comparing siblings, to name a few. The book explores communication between the siblings and how parents can enable their kids to resolve their problems themselves, instead of always running to Mom or Dad.
It was a real eye opener to read some of this stuff! I love how the authors ask you to put yourself in your child's shoes, and what kind of parental reaction might appease you or set you off even further. The analogy of a husband (or wife) adding a new spouse to the relationship, to help demonstrate how your child might feel towards a sibling, was brilliant. Once I could understand how a child might feel in situations, no matter how insignificant they appear to a grown up, I felt that I could better parent my own kiddos. The real key is trying to sympathize with your child, making sure they know you are hearing their complaints and that you are there for them. Then, put them to the task of trying to work things out with their sibling to see if they can come up with some sort of agreement.
I liked how the authors think ahead to all potential responses. The book is written as if we are in a group session on parenting. Other parents share their stories and the group and authors discuss them. When the authors make a point on an issue, they make sure to examine the issue from all sides, and point out possible things that could go wrong with their advice - usually, this is done in the form of a parent coming up with a story that might challenge the idea. I really loved that they authors made the effort to do this - in so many self-help books, you'll get advice and you might be thinking well, that won't work because of this or this - here, our authors address those doubts.
There is some discussion on how the parents in the group (and perhaps the parents reading the book) relate to their own siblings and what their childhood was like. And how perhaps that affects our parenting today. I wouldn't have expected this - this is a book about parents and their kids and helping them get along. But it was surprisingly helpful and really brought some issues full-circle.
I'm definitely going to re-read this book and try the approach to sibling issues the authors recommend. I was reading the book while we were at the pool recently, and a mom stopped me and asked me if it was any good, that she could use some help with siblings. Another mom chimed in and said that she wished she had this kind of book when her kids were growing up. I gave the book an enthusiastic recommendation to the pool moms - I think our preschool teacher would be thrilled about that.