Hamaker on Sibling Rivalry

Hamaker_review_10132014Sarah Hamaker. 2014.  Ending Sibling Rivalry:  Moving Your Kids from War to Peace.  Kansas City:  Beacon Hill Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Let’s be honest.  Most of us were not prepared to be parents. As someone wise once said: parenting is a job that is mostly learned by doing and when you get the hang of it, it’s over. Sibling rivalry is part of that mysterious process that is both frustrating and enigmatic.  When Sarah told me that she was writing a book on sibling rivalry, I was more than a bit curious.


Why is sibling rivalry important?  Siblings are surprisingly important—our first and longest running relationships are with our siblings. Eighty percent of us have them (12).  How we relate with our siblings (or not) accordingly affects how we deal with just about everyone else.  If anger management and conflict resolutions skills are not learned in the family context, chances are good that they will not be learned at all.  If they are learned in the context of family, then chances are good that a lifetime of benefits will accrue (22).

Family civility cannot be assumed.  As Hamaker reminds us, the first stories in the bible of siblings, do not end well. Cain murders his brother, Abel; Jacob rips his brother, Esau, off; Joseph gets sold into slavery by his brothers (19-22).  Biblical failures need not be our failures!

Focus of Book

An experienced parent herself, Sarah focuses on moving beyond conflict.  She offers parents both things to think about and ideas to implement.  For example, she asks parents to develop a mission statement for their kids.  She says: if someone asked you to describe each of your children as age thirty, what would you say? (24)  She observes that most parents asked this question respond, not with a list of achievements (education, jobs, status symbols …), but with character traits (compassionate, Godly, hardworking…)  If this is what we want to see in our grown children, then how to do work to instill these qualities when they are young? (25).


Hamaker writes Ending Sibling Rivalry in 10 chapters, preceded by acknowledgments and an introduction and followed by conclusions and chapter notes.  The chapters are:

  1. The Importance of Getting Along;
  2. Thinking the Best, Not the Worst;
  3. Competition;
  4. Comparison/Favorites;
  5. Separate and Unequal (Fairness);
  6. The Blessings of Siblings;
  7. Conflict Resolution;
  8. One-on-One Time;
  9. Breathing Room; and
  10. Introducing New Siblings (7).

Sarah is not just an experienced parent; she is also a certified leadership parenting coach. She also blogs on parenting issues (www.ParentCoachNOVA.com).  I know her as a leader in the Capital Christian Writers club (www.CapitalChristianWriters.org).

My own kids are now all college graduates.  Yet, the scars of sibling rivalry are still obvious—if you know where to look.  When Sarah asks:  Have you ever looked at your kids fighting and seen an opportunity for personal growth? (105)  I can honestly say:  no, never.  But, I wish that I had.

Sarah’s discussion of Matthew 7:1-5[1], 18:15-16[2], and 7:12[3] points to my weakness as a teacher of biblical principles to my children.  Although I did, in fact, teach my kids the golden rule (Matthew 7:12), my own lack of focus in bible knowledge came across in my parenting.  I taught my kids to read from children’s bibles, but did not focus on the particular lessons that might have critically aided their development—like conflict resolution—the focus of these particular verses.


Hamaker’s Ending Sibling Rivalry is readable and includes results of her own parent survey.  If you are a parent of young kids or even teens, it is definitely worth taking a look.


[1]“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.  (Matthew 7:1-5 ESV)

[2]“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. (Matthew 18:15-16 ESV)

[3]“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12 ESV)

Hamaker on Sibling Rivalry

Also see:

Friedman Brings Healing by Shifting Focus from Individuals to the Family 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com


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