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The Big Answer


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Mixed Feelings

a book by Francine Klagsbrun

(our site's book review)

This book is about sibling rivalry and related matters. The author opposes preferential treatment by parents and also the act of singling out one child as a scapegoat. Some interviewees realized the negative power effects (from parent or sibling) on themselves in their families and left the family as adolescents to create healthier social support networks for themselves.

The author opposes preferential treatment by parents and also the act of singling out one child as a scapegoat
The author opposes preferential treatment by parents and also the act of singling out one child as a scapegoat


41% of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, but MCs preclude most such possibilities due to the need-filling situation of lots of nurturing friends
41% of first marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, but MCs preclude most such possibilities due to the need-filling situation of lots of nurturing friends

The author is a subscriber to systems thought, advocating family therapy over naïve therapies identifying one individual as “the problem.” More often than not, the problem child is merely a symptom of a serious marriage problem. Parents often project their own fears and hate and internal conflicts on their children, and then treat the children as though they were the cause of these feelings. Parents often project images of their parent, grandparent, or other relatives onto a child, viewing the child as if he were that person. It is not unusual for parents to use their children to settle old scores relating to repressed anger at people parents had problems with. The trouble with the parent-child relationship is that the same vulnerability that allows open young hearts to be responsive to loving care also allows them to be susceptible to intentional or unintentional oppression from a misguided parent.

There are resilient children who survive bad upbringings and yet come out strong and whole, because they find other people to shelter and nurture them, people not in the family environment
There are resilient children who survive bad upbringings and yet come out strong and whole, because they find other people to shelter and nurture them, people not in the family environment

There are a small group of kids known as resilient children who survive bad upbringings and yet come out strong and whole. This usually happens because they find other people to shelter and nurture them—people not in the family environment. (Klagsbrun makes a big point of this, but somehow the obvious insight about MCs—or at least flat-gradient nurturance—so that the environment would always have positive nurturers available, never seems to hit her. See Why Register for an MC?.)

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match

She notes that when siblings are close in age it aggravates sibling rivalry, which can lead to much hate and misery—and even danger—in a normal home environment in which steep-gradient nurturance is practiced diligently. She shows how in real maturity, siblings learn the win-win lesson: a win for one isn’t a lose for the other; one’s accomplishment isn’t the other’s loss. Feeling and understanding these competitive feelings helps one overcome them, but it isn’t a cure for them.

Sibling rivalry can lead to much hate and misery—and even danger—in a normal home environment in which steep-gradient nurturance is practiced
Sibling rivalry can lead to much hate and misery—and even danger—in a normal home environment in which steep-gradient nurturance is practiced

She says “. . . children learn better in an atmosphere of cooperation and interdependence than [one] of competition and rugged individualism.”

The steep-gradient nurturance intrinsic to most families has dictated that most sibling relationships include jealousies, conflicts, ups and downs, closeness and distance. But this isn’t an absolute, because rare instances where siblings have a problem-free, wonderful relationship do exist, validating the flat-gradient nurturance that somehow evolved in the environment, even if unintentional or extrafamilial.