Unequal Siblings


The fact that not all children are born equal is a reality that causes a number of concerns for parents of families with multiple children. Competitions over academic performance, size, number of friends, athletic prowess, and a never ending list of other attributes are common place and often difficult to manage. The idea that we love all our children the same, though probably true, is often in conflict with our smiles and reactions to things like winning a game, getting a high grade, or sharing an area of common interest. Managing these inadvertent parental stamps of approval takes a consistent and conscious effort to be interested in all our children’s interests, and not be overly connected to our own. This doesn’t mean we have to love video games, clothes, comic books, or sports facts. Nor does it mean we can’t have our own passions and hobbies. It means that we are excited at our children having a passion and sharing it; that we enjoy watching them pursue their hobbies, and that we show them and share our own excitement over the passions and activities that we enjoy. This type of interest and communication fosters a sense of cooperation, and mitigates against excessive feelings of competition or “unfairness”. It allows us to be in love with their differences, and to appreciate them for their individuality, not their similarity. Accompanying the ability to avidly pursue interests or passions, is the equally significant need to maintain ”balance”. Adults can’t stop paying bills, going to work, or maintaining their home simply because they would rather watch TV or play golf ( a personal passion of my own). Passion can’t replace responsibility. The relationship between doing what they want versus doing what they have to, is difficult for children to understand, and requires a lot of practice. The most effective method of “teaching” balance is to model and maintain it within the home. Demonstration will be more powerful than conversation. Noticing “balanced behavior” and acknowledging it when it happens, is the mechanism for increasing its occurrence. Statements like “Good job getting ready this morning”, “Thanks for finishing your homework early, that leaves us time to play a game of chess”, “Your room looks good so let’s ride bikes for a while”, are all rewarding a child for and support the relationship between work and play.

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