This week, Lucinda Rosenfeld’s novel The Pretty One: A novel about sisters hit stores. After three years of research for her book about three sisters trying to navigate their lives after losing their mother, and as the youngest of three sisters, she knows a thing or two about raising girls. She offered some insight to Huffington Post about raising sisters who become friends.
She writes, “What the book is really about is the strange brew of loyalty, resentment, love and envy that characterizes sister relationships. In real life, I’m the youngest of three sisters—and the mother of two young daughters, age 4 1/2 and 6 1/2, who can be found snuggling when not trying to choke each other’s tiny necks.” So how is a parent to stop the neck-wringing? First and foremost, don’t label your daughters (the smart one, the pretty one, etc.) and don’t pit them against each other. She gives the example, “Penelope ate all her peas. Why didn’t you?” as one of the small things that can make girls feel the competition with their sisters even more. Similarly, parents should avoid taking sides and should definitely not pick favorites. That can mean something as simple as avoiding sharing secrets with one sister and not the other.
Rosenfeld advises that even though you shouldn’t label sisters, it’s important to acknowledge them as separate people. Encourage different extracurricular activities based on their strengths and interests, force them to spend time alone and try to limit the hand-me-downs. Of course, an emphasis on individuality doesn’t mean your girls shouldn’t learn to enjoy each other’s company. Rosenfeld also believes in the importance of shared activities. “Some psychologists have posited that sibling relationships,” she writes,”especially when the siblings are close in age, are essentially first marriages. As such, your daughters need each other to learn the fine art of compromise, of taking turns, and of fighting over who left hair affixed to the shower drain.”
We love her practical, careful advice. How do you make sure your daughters grow to be friends.