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the sibling effect

When I was growing up, I always wished I had a sister close in age to me with whom I could share secrets, make up games and worlds, and have fights but then make up later. I am thrilled to have two girls of my own, and it’s important to me that as they mature, they know how special and unique their bond with each other is. I want to do what I can to ensure my girls have a close relationship based on love and mutual respect.

I may be especially in tune to this aspect of parenting because I often wonder whether it will matter that I didn’t grow up with a sibling close in age to me. I have no personal experience from which to draw when helping my children fight their battles with each other. And while I have several girlfriends who are close with their sisters, I also have a few who are not. They typically chalk it up to personality differences, but I have to wonder if it’s more complicated–if the rift runs deeper than it seems. How could quirks in personality type be the sole divider between two people with such an intense relationship?

One of my favorite courses in college was developmental psychology. I love watching children learn and grow, and it was fascinating to me to learn the science to accompany my years of experience as a camp counselor. I finally knew what those kids were thinking! I’ve gotten another huge dose of knowledge in the past few weeks from a book I’m reading.

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children
NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found Nurture Shock to be as eye-opening as Malcolm Gladwell’s books and Freakonomics. In particular, I enjoyed the chapter on siblings. I find it interesting that the authors point to research showing children fight over their belongings, not over the affection of their parents. How egocentric of us to think otherwise! Then, at the end of the chapter they note the children who got along best with their siblings started out having good relationships with friends.

What frustrates me is that they don’t provide specifics as to why these children had good relationships with friends; did their parents do something special or different to teach them to share toys or show respect? Perhaps they are gearing up to write a sequel or a workbook for parents. I hope so. I would snap it up in a heartbeat!

One of the mom bloggers I follow posted recently about the experience of actively managing her children’s relationship. I hope parenting will come as naturally to me as it seems to for her.

I’ll leave you with a video I took of the girls the other day. I turned away to read something on the computer for somewhere between 10 and 40 seconds, and this is how I found them when I looked back. Watching it again, I notice Charlie can’t seem to get comfortable. Ever the naturalist filmmaker, I opted not to jump in and help. The best videos are the ones taken incognito.


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