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2 Is a Party, 3 Is a Crowd (As Told By My Daughter)

Much  as we try to make our kids feel equally loved, they accuse us of  showing “favoritism.”  I recently received the following email from a  twelve-year old boy named Jordan. His message shows the damage of  parental favoritism:
I know my dad loves me and wants me to do really well  in life, but he’s making me -feel so bad about myself. All he does is  compare me to my brother and tell me I should try to be more like him. I  know I can never be like him, but the worst thing is I’m starting to  hate my brother. I don’t mean to. I just do. Can you help me?

 His message hurts, doesn’t it? We don’t mean to play  favorites and deliberately set out to make one kid feel less loved. But  if we’re not careful, our subtle day-to-day behaviors can set up deadly  feelings of jealousy amongst siblings. And those feelings can take from  family harmony as well as last a lifetime.

 Of course, treating kids equally is plain unrealistic:  they come packaged with different temperaments, interests, and needs. So  don’t drive yourself too crazy trying to always make things always  fair. The real trick is to minimize conditions that break down sibling  relationships and cause long-lasting resentment. Bottom line: while some  rivalry is unavoidable, parents can discourage sibling disharmony by  giving careful attention to how their household atmosphere is  structured. Here are seven ideas to guide you in minimizing jealousy and  disharmony amongst siblings:

  1. Refrain  from comparing behaviors. Never compare or praise one kid’s behavior in  contrast to a sibling: it can create long-lasting strains. “Why can’t  you be more like your sister?” “Why aren’t you organized like your  brother?” All too easily, kids can interpret such comparisons as: “You  think he’s better than me” or “You love him more.” It unfairly puts  pressure on the sibling you praised and devalues your other child.
  2. Listen  openly to all sides. Listening fairly your kids is not only a powerful  way to convey that you respect each child’s thoughts and want to hear  all sides: “Thanks for sharing. Now I want to hear your brother’s side.”  The key is to build a fair relationship with each sibling so that he or  she knows not only that you value each opinion and you’re an unbiased  listener.
  3. Never  compare schoolwork. Kids should compare their schoolwork, test scores,  and report cards only to their own previous work—never to the work of  their siblings or friends. Instead of stimulating a child to work  harder, comparisons are more likely to fuel resentment.
  4. Avoid  using negative labels. Family nicknames like Shorty, Clumsy, or Klutz  can cause unfair family ribbings and fuel sibling resentment. “Don’t  worry, he’s just the family klutz”-as well as become daily reminders of  incompetence. These kinds of labels often stick and become difficult to  erase, not only within but also outside your family as well.
  5. Nurture  a unique strength for each sibling. All kids deserve to hear from  parents what makes them unique. Knowledge of that talent nurtures their  self-esteem as well as setting them apart from their siblings. Ideally,  you should nurture a different strength for each sibling based on  natural temperament and interests. Once you identify the talent, find  opportunities to cultivate and validate it so each child can be  acknowledged for their strength.

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Gabriella J

Hi, I'm Gabriella. Mama to 3 kids and married to my high school sweetheart, Jake! My toddler drives me to the brink of insanity but coffee helps me survive :)! I try catching up on some reading after putting my kids to bed. I am also a big time foodie. You can check out my posts for recipes, fashion tips, mom hacks and more. I'm here to share my journey, become a part of yours and learn from everyone's experiences :)
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