Part II: Sibling Unrivalry- How to Undo Harmful Competition In Our Children
This is Part II of this series, you can read Part I here.
Why is it important to unrival our kids as early possible?
If you want your children to:
- Grow up confident in their own intrinsic skills,
- Know and embrace their uniqueness rather than chasing success by smashing someone else down,
- Truly be happy for their siblings’ (or other people’s ) successes which would only further theirs (law of attraction),
- Love on each other and have each other’s back in good times and bad. This is one is my favorite. Nothing is more tender than solid sisterhood (or brotherhood for that matter) for a mama like me to watch.
- Gain valuable skill how to deeply connect with other people in the real world. This skill is golden and can take your child places beyond his/her imagination.
- Learn to problem solve and resolve conflicts which is required skill if you want to be a legit Adult.
And many more….
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
I truly believe that parents ( 99.9%) do not consciously want to harm their children psychologically.
But the truth is, good intent does not always equal good results. Meaning, just because you intend to raise “ good and successful” children that that’s what you’ll get.
It takes more than that.
It takes taking a good look at ourselves in the mirror and understanding that if we never bother to straighten out our unruly hair, day in and day out. Chances are, it doesn’t really matter if we tell our children to fix theirs. Our children will score the same unruly hair despite our best effort to teach them otherwise.
Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be.
In Part I, I simply asked you to grab a mirror. If you were brave enough to look yourself in the eye and point out to your unruly hair, this is an awesome start ( pat yourself on the back).
If not yet, I am patient, and you should be too especially when it comes to your self-improvement. This process can be painful because finding yourself in your truest form, may remind you of old wounds and other people’s shortcomings, like your parents.
Take as much time as you need but remember your children are eagerly waiting for you
What To DO Instead
- It is quite tempting to just compare Juan’s straight A report card to motivate Pedro. This is a very discouraging way to motivate Pedro.
- If he does a good job, he’ll probably be hating on Juan or view himself simply as “second best.”
- If you have this tendency, observe yourself patiently. Instead of comparing Juan to Pedro. Use your child’s past record as standard or reference for improvement. Say, if Pedro received an A in Math 2 years ago, use this to motivate him. Or, if, he had a C in Science, you may use this, too. Tell Pedro that you believe in him and that you are sure he can bring his Grade C to a B next semester.
- I know it tickles us when we asked our children some of these questions: “Sinong mas love mo si daddy or (who do you love more…); Sinong mas maganda ( whose prettier..); Sinong mas matalino ( Whose smarter…). Etc. ” Like I mentioned on Part I, Filipinos embrace humor and uses it for many ways to cope with adversity or to simply bring up an issue that otherwise would be undiscoverable forever and ever amen. But asking these questions as a pattern ( if you do this seldomly, be aware of your children’s reaction but I wouldn’t sweat it). If you’re honest, the person that gets the most benefit from asking these questions is.. You’ve guessed it…. YOU. It feels good to be the favored parent and it feels good to be a proud parent of your straight A kiddo ( nothing wrong with that, just don’t use this a standard for the next kid). But if you’re feeling good is made in the name of your B student and your daughter whose complexion might be a bit darker, please think twice. The rival between siblings that this can create is nothing compared to the damning judgment it will create in your child’s mind. It’s this judgment that will stop them in their tracks as adults to believe that they’re not enough, never mind if everyone else thinks so.
- If your temperament is not aligned with your child. Say, you appreciate a slower paced day and prefer people who talk slower, simply knowing this will help you interact with your child who never seem to be blinking red light to connote, “lo bat.” This can help you understand that your more active child simply does not exist to push your button but is just different from how you process “stuff” in your environment. Anytime that a child feels that he/she is not the preferred child, it creates separation between siblings because the parent is communicating a stronger alliance with that other child which covertly tells the other child they are not as lovable.
- When one child has the reputation of being the “good one,” they may have the tendency to tell on the other sibling. When this happen, try not to take the case at its face value. Instead, fact check and ask the other child open-ended questions to find out the circumstances around their case. The tone of your voice is important. You may be asking questions but if it sounds accusatory, it’s as good as believing the story at its 1st version. It might be tempting to do this especially if the other child has history of a particular behavior (ex. taking sister’s things without permission) but with practice, You can do this. You’ll see, if you do this right, the so called “problematic” child will slowly have less issue to tell on.
- Material rewards are fine in moderation. I used them with my own kids. I’ll be more aware not to over-use objects that can be made into a collection because collections can be a reminder of whose the better one. It can be an unspoken competition without the trophy in display. You might not notice the difference but your children will. When it comes to rewarding good behavior choose materials that would not last for a long time (stickers, food, dollar tree toys …). Even better is to use what our children need the most anyway- a hug, a smile, a pat on the back, praises, all go a long way.
- One way to unrival siblings is to teach them to rely on each other rather than coming to you for COMFORT on everything. If you’re like me, I love being the comfort of my kids. So please don’t take this recommendation as a way to hinder your affectionate nature. If one child gets mildly hurt or is scared, ask the other child to comfort their sibling. I do this all the time with my twins ( it works especially when I’m frying fish and I would need a minute to disengage before I can assist); it teaches them that they have each other’s back and help them discover their ability to soothe others. To make this work, you would have spent some time being a great comfort for your child. Helping them calm down so that they too, can coach others to do the same. My daughters calm each other down by reminding each other to breathe and they often use the phrase, “ Be still your heart,” which is one of my lingo when I’m tying soothe their restless hearts.
- Another way to unrival our children is not to intervene too quickly during times of conflict. I, too have to watch myself with this one. When we do this too often, you’ll find that your children learn that you are the judge who will ultimately decide whose wrong and whose right. So, they would learn to plead their case with you rather than resolving their conflict on their own. Since, you didn’t witness the entire exchange and at times children may be influenced by their emotions when reporting their case, your judgment even with the best intent would sometimes leave one isolated and one vindicated. This will propel sibling rivalry if done too often. Instead, allow your children to converse and be frustrated with each other. Of course, you will intervene immediately if physicality is involved. This will not be second nature to you so in the beginning, so simply count 1-20 before participating in the fiasco. If they obviously need help with resolving their issue, be a guide rather than a judge.
Believe that unrivaling your children is possible. Look at your own sibling relationship and notice. Notice your closeness or your distance with your sister/brother and simply be curious. If you are satisfied with your own sibling relationship, your folks did something right and chances are these recommendations may come more natural to you. If not, take heart, you can always learn new things by being aware of the old. Observe, practice and practice some more!
Which of these strategies would be the most challenging to you to implement and why? Comment on the side bar.
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Roanne has been a Psychotherapist for more than 15 years. She has frequented at least 500 Filipino homes and counting. She is the author of the Ebook: 5 Pinoy Love Languages and the creator of the presentation entitled: Filipino Core Values & Considerations in Culturally Responsive Care. To access self-paced courses and other resources, enter the Kalamansi Juice Academy.
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