Help junior step out of his sibling’s shadow

Raising a child who’s often overlooked, thanks to an accomplished sibling? Learn ways to help him come into his own.

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Even though blood will always be thicker than water, sibling relationships can be tricky to navigate sometimes. This is especially true when one sibling seems to stand out from the rest by being better at just about everything.

Take celebrity siblings, for example ― the world can’t seem to get enough of Beyoncé, but seem much less interested in sister Solange Knowles. Then, there are the Hemsworth brothers. Younger brothers Chris and Liam have conquered Hollywood while the eldest, Luke, is literally living under their towering shadows. Bet you didn’t know he’s also an actor, did you?

“Living in the shadows of a more successful sibling is tough, no matter whether the sibling is older or younger,” notes, Sarah Chua, a parenting specialist at Focus on the Family.

The struggle is real for these kids who constantly feel like they are being pitted against their more famous, better-looking and all-round-perfect sibling. They will grow up feeling like nothing they do is good enough. Mummy and daddy will favour their “blue-eyed boy” more than them anyways.

Worst case scenario, these kids may give up trying to succeed in life altogether. What’s the point when their brother or sister is always going to one-up them?

Because these kids feel left out of the family equation, they usually grow up with an inferiority complex and resent their siblings, which can cause rivalry. Chua points out, “They may not have a healthy relationship and not interact well together.”

Worst case scenario, these kids may give up trying to succeed in life altogether. What’s the point when their brother or sister is always going to one-up them?

Children who give up too soon on themselves have a higher risk of rebellious behaviour. They might let their school grades slip, stop hanging out with family, or engage in outrageous conduct, such as playing truant, stealing or doing drugs.

Very often, this negative attention-seeking behaviour is a silent cry for help and affection from parents. It’s also an attempt to get some of the limelight away from the “favourite” child.

A parent’s role

Your kids may look like each other and have the same last name, but they are different as night and day. As a parent, it’s your job to recognise this and not compare them or wish one was more like the other. You hold the key in creating and maintaining positive relationships and a tension-free atmosphere in the home.

“Parents play a key role in helping their children foster strong relationships and this can be done by not comparing them,” notes Chua. “Instead, inculcate good values such as unconditional love and teamwork in the family.”

It’s also important to celebrate each child’s individuality. So, inspire and encourage them to discover their unique strengths and talents. Then help them develop these strengths in order to enjoy greater success in life.

“And remember, there are many paths to success. Parents should look beyond the usual academic success and rejoice in each child’s unique strengths and talents,” adds Chua.

Click through to find out what our parenting expert has to say.

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If you have a child whom you think needs to step out of his or her sibling’s shadow and make a name for themselves, Chua has expert advice for you…

TIP #1 Don’t compare your children

DO THIS BECAUSE… “Comparing your children will breed resentment in the child who feels inferior, and may even create a falsely placed sense of superiority in your other child,” warns Chua. “It will certainly create an emotional rift between the siblings, and between parent and child as well.”

HOW TO DO IT Treat your children as separate individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses. When one child shines in an area that his or her sibling struggles with, resist the temptation to make a comparison. Instead, praise the successful child’s efforts and move on.

TIP #2 Acknowledge their feelings of inferiority

DO THIS BECAUSE… This assures your children that their thoughts and feelings are important to you.

HOW TO DO IT Spend regular one-on-one time with each child. Set a fortnightly date with each of them and spend quality time talking or doing an activity together. It can be as simple as taking your daughter out for high tea or playing a video game with your son. Having this special bonding time together will bring you both closer. With time, your child will be encouraged to open up to you and share their deepest feelings and fears. This will give you an opportunity to counsel and guide them.

“Comparing your children will breed resentment in the child who feels inferior, and may even create a falsely placed sense of superiority in your other child.”

TIP#3 Help them to learn from their sibling’s successful traits

DO THIS BECAUSE… It helps children to reframe the situation positively. Rather than focusing on their own perceived inadequacies, they turn their attention to what qualities or traits they admire in their sibling, and can take proactive steps to nurture them.

HOW TO DO IT “When your child compares himself unfavourably to a sibling, rephrase what he says to focus his attention on the quality he admires instead,” suggests Chua. For example, if your child says, “My brother is great at playing the piano, but I’m not”, respond with, “He is a good piano player. Would you like to be able to do that? How can we work towards it?”

TIP #4 Help your child to find his own strengths

DO THIS BECAUSE… It helps your kiddo to develop as an individual; discover his own likes and dislikes as well as identify personal strengths. This can be a great confidence booster.

HOW TO DO IT Despite how your child feels about himself, the reality is that he does possess strengths and positive qualities. You should highlight these whenever the opportunity arises. “For example, if your child enjoys drawing cartoons, praise his skillfulness and perseverance in this area,” suggests Chua. “Or, if your child is thoughtful towards elderly members of your household, praise him for his respect and compassion towards them.” You could even encourage him to explore new hobbies. Who knows, he might find one he really loves and is great at.

TIP #5 Assure them of your unconditional love

DO THIS BECAUSE… “Every child desires and responds well to affirmation, especially from those they trust and love ― such as their parents,” says Chua. “It can help to increase their confidence and resilience over time.”

HOW TO DO IT Make time each day to tell your child you love him or her through words and actions. This can be through a quick, “I love you” as everyone heads to work and school, or a hug and kiss for those who appreciate physical touch as their love language.

TIP #6 Help the siblings bond by finding common ground

DO THIS BECAUSE… You’ll help to cement the relationship between your children. Sharing common interests and spending time together will forge a strong relationship bond between them.

HOW TO DO IT “Spend as much time together as a family as you can to give your children greater opportunities for interaction, and build family memories they can draw on in the future and bond over,” Chua advises. Prioritise family mealtimes, as well as spend leisure time together doing activities. By doing this, you can also show the kiddos how to handle healthy competition, be supportive of each other and encourage each other to be the best versions of themselves.

Photos: iStock

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