As a teacher one question that you hear often and is the absolute most dreaded question is “Why isn’t my son singing his letters yet? Mary was by this age.” Many parents fall into the trap of raising siblings and comparing their accomplishments and the timeline in which they are achieved. After you get the first child going it can be natural to think that all the children will follow the same learning pathway.
Children can share DNA, home environments, and school environments but we must remember that each child is an individual in their learning style and the time they need to learn. One child might be great at reading and learns letters and sounds quickly while the next might learn them slower and with a different method such as a game of hopscotch instead of using flash cards. When comparing children to each other, we as adults can affect how children feel about themselves and their siblings.
One thing that comparing brothers an sisters to each others can initiate is sibling rivalry. Sometimes a sense of competition between siblings can be healthy. But when a child’s abilities to learn are used to compare them they can develop numerous negative emotions toward their sibling. One child might start feeling superior to the other and begin to be a little pushy in how they relate. The other can develop a sub servant attitude and begin to just follow instead of adding their own ideas to situations. This kind of rivalry can affect the bonds between them and cause a weakened relationship. Its great when siblings can feel supported by each other.
Comparing children can be a huge hit to a child’s self-esteem. They may start to feel inadequate and broken. If they feel that they are unable to meet previous standards they may feel they are not good enough. They may start to give up instead of trying new methods to learn. Children will start to believe that some things are unattainable. Maybe they aren’t good enough to be an astronaut. Just because they learn letters in a different way or in different pace doesn’t mean they can’t be an author one day. Being compared to others might affect how they think others view them. They might feel that aren’t loved the same.
The way to combat such comparisons is to avoid labeling a child. Even a nonchalant statement as “George is the family reader” can affect their siblings especially if the same the child is the one always being praised. Each child needs to be acknowledged as being special. As parents and teachers, we need to find out how each of our children learn. We need to encourage them to try different ways and to learn be actively engaged in exploring different learning methods. Building an environment based on individuality and sibling teamwork will put children in a positive mindset to learn and give them greater opportunities to be successful.
Lead Pre-Kindergarten Teacher