Sibling comparison and rivalry is normal, but if left unchecked, it can damage relationships and feed a child’s feelings of low self-esteem.
As the youngest of six, I often felt like I couldn’t quite live up to the reputations of my older brothers and sisters--college homecoming queen, college student body president, talented musicians, athletes. I look back on that now and try to remember what my parents did to keep me from comparing myself to such great older siblings. A few of my parents’ powerful phrases echo in my mind:
Did you do your best?
When I came home with a C, my dad would look me in the eyes and say,
“Did you do your best?” He never compared me to my older, smarter siblings, or ask what happened to last quarter’s A or B. He just wanted to know if I’d truly given my best effort.
It’s easy for sports parents to fall into the trap of comparing one child’s “best’” with another child’s “best.” No two kids are alike. No two “bests” are alike either.
I’m proud of you!
My dad told me this many times. Sometimes it was when I did something awesome, and sometimes it was just because. Armed with the knowledge of his pride in me, I rarely entertained thoughts of not measuring up to my older siblings.
Do you take the time to say those simple words “I’m proud of you”, even if your child doesn’t win or even have the best game? Be proud of the process, not just the outcome.
Their talent has nothing to do with you.
My parents never compared my abilities to the talents of my siblings. I never heard “why can’t you be like your older brother?” or “look how your sister does it!" They pushed me to follow in my siblings’ footsteps or be as good as they were in music or sports. I grew up knowing that their talent had nothing to do with me and that I was a special and unique person apart from them.
Giving your child permission and the support to play to their strengths will let them play to their full potential.
I never fell into the trap comparison because my parents dealt with it before it ever become a problem. I call that offensive parenting because parents on offense are not always reacting to problems and situations that a child throws at them, but are doing things to ward off those situations and problems from ever happening.
Yes, kids will compare themselves with others, but if you pour into them, as my parents did to me, your children will be ready to face the contention and comparison will not be the standard by which they measure their worth.
Janis B. Meredith is a sportsparenting blogger, podcaster, and life coach. She provides resources to help parents give their children a positive and growing youth sports experience. Her book 11 Habits for Happy & Positive Sports Parents is available on Amazon.