I am an only child. My parents are only children. My daughter is an only child. To say I am baffled by the family dynamics when there is more than one child is an understatement.
My daughter’s friends all have siblings so I do get a chance to watch the power of sibling dynamics in action. Interesting stuff. Fascinating really. Watching parents handle siblings is kind of mind blowing too. I have to give my friends a lot of credit. It ain’t easy.
I have always been a huge supporter and proponent of Dr. Laura Markham’s work. She is the peaceful parenting expert behind Aha Parenting, a site that has time and time again saved my sanity. She always has solid, real life advice for parents who come from all parenting styles. She never downplays the challenges of parenting and yet she always has such practical advice to solving parenting dilemmas that is does make parenting a bit easier.
I was excited to see that Dr. Laura Markham's new book is all about siblings. (Psst – it is available for pre-order! It won't be on bookstore shelves until May 5, but the advantage of pre-ordering is that you also get immediate access to her audio course, Peaceful Parenting. You can get the details and pre-order here.
Anyway, I decided to read this book even though I am not raising more than one child. Because you know, you never know. The Universe might change that one day. (And NO Universe – I am not suggesting that you do).
I have to admit, I did not get a chance to read this book cover to cover. I was in the midst of moving three states away. But I did read those chapters or sections of chapters that called out to me. And let me tell you – if the rest of the book is as insightful, inspiring, and supportive as the parts I read, then this book needs a place in the parenting resources hall of fame. Yes, it really is that good. Great. More than great. EPIC.
The book itself is divided into three parts. The first part focuses on the foundation of peaceful parenting, specifically but not exclusively as it relates to raising siblings. Part two is all about teaching peace and how to parent through pretty typical sibling issues. Part three, and one of the sections I spent quite a bit of time in, looks at how to prepare your child(ren) for baby’s arrival and all that comes with being a sibling. It also dives into baby’s first year and the changing family dynamic, parenting dynamic, and of course adjustment for the new big brother or sister.
Like I said, I spent quite a bit of time on the third section of the book but I did give a good skim to parts one and two. I actually think that it is a very valuable read even for parents of only children. Not only does it give a great refresher course on peaceful parenting (specifically in part one) but it also can REALLY help when you are dealing with multiple children, be it a playdate situation, babysitting, or a family get together. I think that there are a lot of very practical nuggets of information that can help in any situation where your only child will be with other children. Because as all parents know, there is a very fine art to parenting your child in the presence of other children and parents who might not parent anything like you do.
One of the chapters I found to be the most useful to me was the chapter on coaching children to set limits with each other. My daughter has a very difficult time with this as she just wants to be a welcomed part of whatever other children are doing. Sometimes this means that she will force herself to stay in a situation she is not comfortable with. This always leads to disaster mostly in the name of HUGE emotions from my daughter. I found Dr. Laura’s examples to be spot on and it helped me see where I have not been doing a particularly good job as a parent. The chapters on coaching kids to problem solve and how to really listen to each other were also very eye-opening. I got a big kick out of the chapter on teaching kids not to blame. Ha! I was the queen of blame. My parents could have really used this chapter back in the day. Haha. Sorry mom.
I spent some time on the section that focused on tools to prevent sibling rivalry and nurture bonding just out of sheer curiosity. It was all really insightful, practical, and a section that I personally feel all parents with more than one child could benefit from reading. Even if peaceful parenting isn’t your default method of parenting, the suggestions Dr. Laura makes and the approach she brings to the table really, in my opinion, have a lot of merit and would be pretty successful.
Like I mentioned before, I spent the most time on the third part of this book. I have always been the most curious about how you help an only child prepare for the new baby and his or her new role as sibling. I have heard a lot of horror stories about going from one child to two children and I have personally seen some really major struggles once the new baby arrives. So I was interested in learning more about how a parent, especially tired new parents, should handle this.
Dr. Laura absolutely blew me away with this chapter. Her discussion on how to tell your child that he or she will be a brother or sister is awesome. Basically it is a really practical step-by-step approach to laying the foundation to the changing family dynamic. I also really like the chapter on making sure that your current only child can rely on BOTH parents and not just mama who will soon be more tied up with a new baby. I think this is something that a lot of parents wait too long to approach.
Dr. Laura also offers a great discussion on preparing your child to be away from you during the birth as well as including your child at the birth. There were a lot of little nuggets in these chapters. I think that these discussions and Dr. Laura’s views on both scenarios, would absolutely help parents who are on the fence about whether or not to have the child at the birth.
And before I leave you let me just share a little breakdown of what Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings includes. There is solid hands-on, research-based advice on:
- Creating deep connections with each one of your children, so that each truly believes that you couldn’t possibly love anyone else more.
- Fostering a loving family culture that encourages laughter and minimizes fighting
- Teaching your children healthy emotional self-management and conflict resolution skills—so that they can work things out with each other, get their own needs met and respect the needs of others
- Helping your kids forge a close lifelong sibling bond—as well as the relationship skills they will need for a life of healthy friendships, work relationships, and eventually their own family bonds
I absolutely recommend this book to all parents but most certainly to parents of more than one child. I think it really could revolutionize the way you parent, your relationship with your children as individuals and together, and also your children’s relationships with each other. Be sure to order your copy!