In my last post, I wrote about younger siblings who become rebellious when faced with the challenge of being as good as an older sibling. See Younger Sibling Rebels Rather Than Compete. Often rebellion takes the form of overt misbehavior such as acting out in class, destroying property, or being aggressive toward others.
A Passive Approach May Result in Poor Grades
Some children take a more passive approach. This is especially true in academics. They simply see that it’s impossible to reach the level of the older sibling, so they give up. (In my counseling practice, I reminded parents and younger siblings that comparing the work of a third grader to a fifth grader almost always leaves the third grader two years behind.)
6 Things Parents Can Do to Encourage Younger Sibling
What can a parent do to encourage the younger sibling to reach his or her potential?
- One obvious caution is that two children should never be compared. Sometimes we do that without realizing it. For example, we might say, “Jacob really enjoyed spelling when he was in the third grade.” In our minds, we’re thinking, “I can’t understand why my two children are so different.” The child hears, “Jacob was good at spelling, therefore he liked it.”
- Insure that there is never teasing or belittling by the older sibling. Never.
- Explain that expectations are different for different ages. Remind the younger child, “Your brother is two years older. He had two years practice before the essay contest that you both entered this year.”
- Find something outside academics that catches the attention of the younger child. I’ve seen grades improve as a side effect of discovering abilities in sports. It’s best if the sport is different from the one the older sibling enjoys.
- Carve out some alone time for the younger child who can’t seem to find her place to shine. Take the younger sister along when you drive the older one to piano lessons. Use the lesson time to take a snack to the park. Sitting on a park bench with a mini-picnic is a great way to hear a child’s heart and, hopefully, correct some misconceptions and provide encouragement. Parents would be surprised if they could hear the children in my counseling office basking in the afterglow of time they had alone with a parent.
- Realize that not all children need to be super academic achievers. Making average academic grades while excelling in the computer programming competitions may be what one child needs on his way to a rewarding career.
Enlist Grandparents’ Help
Each of these suggestions seems easy enough, but they do require time from parents who are already overscheduled. Involve grandparents and both parents. Children can never have too many adults caring about and spending time with them.