Siblings without Rivalry (Ch. 3): The Perils of Comparison

[This is the fourth in a series of posts for A Living Family online Book Club on the book Siblings Without Rivalry, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Whether you are reading with us, have read the book already, or can’t get your hands on a copy, please join the discussion!]

Consider the following (and please discuss in the comments):

How might your words be received by your children?

Do you ever praise one of your children? In front of the other? Ever find yourself, in anger or out of pleasure, exclaiming something that includes reference to both children?

  • “You’re a big boy.” (As opposed to the baby…)
  • “How come your brother manages to get home on time?”
  • “Your sister never talks to me that way.”

Both favorable and unfavorable comparisons are to be avoided.

When speaking with one child, how might you shift towards describing, without reference to the other? 

“Instead of comparing one child unfavorably to another, speak about the behavior that displeases you.”

  • Describe what you see: “I see a brand new jacket on the floor.”
  • Describe what you feel: “That bothers me.”

“Instead of comparing one child favorably to another, speak only about the behavior that pleases you.”

  • Describe what you see: “I see you hung up your jacket.”
  • Describe what you feel: “I appreciate that. I like seeing our hallway looking neat.”


  • Use this week to keep an ear out for comparing language when you speak to your children. Work on saying whatever you need to say to one child without reference to the other.
  • Please take some time to take notes or jot down your thoughts about the above questions. When you are ready (and willing), please share some of your thoughts here so that we may learn from each other, grow together and move forward, collectively, as mothers and fathers and caregivers.


NEXT UP: Equal Is Less


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