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Effect of Comparison Among Siblings


Have your parents ever told you, “Learn something from your elder brother. He is so responsible, so sensitive"?

If you grew up with a sibling, chances are, you’re not secluded from the comparisons in the house. Comparison among siblings is so naturally practiced, that it isn’t even given a second thought. Despite growing up in the same house, with same genetics and having the same opportunities, siblings are quite different from each other. And it comes with absolutely no guarantee that it will come to an end after they grow up.

As humans, we have natural tendency to measure up to others. We tend to compare anything and everything. But it is universally acknowledged that comparing is an unhealthy habit, especially when it involves siblings.

A sibling’s learning and journey may even act as an example, or opportunity to learn, but the thin line between healthy and unhealthy comparisons may well have completely different results. Parents may have the best interest in doing so, but they probably are causing more harm than good, when they expect two individuals to behave and perform the same. It is not a reasonable expectation. When comparisons are overpowered by judgments, expectations, or disappointments, they lead to impacts that may last for years to come, and even end up shaping their identities.

"Comparison is a death knell to sibling harmony"

-Elizabeth Fishel

Comparisons may seem normal and harmless in everyday scenarios, but its effect on children are too severe and damaging, to be ignored.

1. Rift between Siblings:

Siblings, who are compared often, may breed feelings of superiority and inferiority, eventually leading to rift between them. Sometimes such rifts are not openly expressed which leads to distorted perceptions and opinions about the sibling. Before you know it, all those suppressed feelings eventually turns into jealousy. This not only distant a child from siblings, but the family too.

"Channel your envy into purpose"

- Anonymous

2. Damaged Parent-Child relationship :

Children are emotionally vulnerable. When you tell your child, time and again that their sibling is better than them, they eventually start despising you. They may not be able to see the bigger picture that you are just looking after them. Instead, they will feel that you are against them.

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3. Rebelling:

Despite giving their best efforts, when a child’s performance is not appreciated due to higher standard set by the sibling, the child may give up altogether and end up rebelling instead. Some children may perform poor intentionally or distant themselves from studies, when they see that their worth is judged on the basis of their sibling’s performance.

Sometimes, comparisons may have just opposite effect, when a child is unable to cope with the pressure and ends up rebelling instead.

4. Damaged Self-Esteem :

When a child is asked by a parent, to be more like his/her sibling, the message that the child takes is that, “You are not good enough.” This is the foundation of damaged self-esteem.

Children often look up to their parents. They take their word to be the absolute truth. What may seem as a casual remark may end up becoming a verse in their minds. Comparison meant to help the child to perform better in the long run, not the opposite.

Parenting is the most difficult job in this world and there is no such thing as the “Ideal Parent”. But parents must make a conscious decision to avoid unhealthy comparisons. Hold back the urge to compare or correct them, when they take a route different from the siblings. We are the ones they look up to and we are the ones they come to when they are low.

Keeping an open communication in the family is very important to avoid unhealthy assumptions or differences with the children and among them too. It would encourage them to speak up when they think they’re being subjected to comparisons. Being a sibling must not mean the end of child’s individuality, and the first step to delineate the boundary, lies with the parents.

"Comparison is the thief of joy"

-Theodore Roosevelt

© 2020 Megha Pawan

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