Siblings fight over everything. Who mom and dad like more, who gets their way more often, who got more ice cream, and yes, who gets better grades.
Sometimes one of our kids is just naturally a better student. It could be that they’re more organized, more interested, or it just comes easier to them. Whatever the reason, grades are easy to compare. And as parents, we know that we’re never supposed to compare our kids. But it’s inevitable the disparity will be noted. Even if you don’t mention it, someone else is bound to, whether it’s a teacher or the siblings themselves.
So we’ve rounded up 10 steps to help deal with this particular sibling rivalry:
- First step, find out if your child cares. Figure out how much your child notices they might be behind their sibling and whether or not it is affecting them. Introduce the conversation when you see a trigger. If you hear a remark about how school is so much easier for their brother, ask them about it. Some kids might just shrug it off but others might reveal how much it bothers them.
- If your child is affected, ask them why they think it exists. Sometimes siblings brush off the hard work the other is putting in. Identifying the secret sauce leading to the better grades can help your other child see what he might do to match up and realize their potential.
- Talk to the other sibling. Make sure your child with the better grades isn’t exacerbating the situation by teasing their struggling brother or sister. However, don’t reinforce that the idea that they are smarter than their sibling.
- Encourage them to study, together. Sometimes an older sibling might be more than happy to help with an assignment and can provide a bonding opportunity. Though, if the study session becomes stressful, break it up and seek tutoring help elsewhere.
- Quash grade comparison at the dinner table. The home should always feel like a safe zone, and when siblings start comparing grades over the green beans, the mood can turn ugly.
- Give them the okay to ignore the teacher, just this once. If the younger one tends to struggle a bit more, they probably brace for the teacher’s thoughtless remark about how talented and smart their older sibling was. Assure your child they don’t mean anything negative and encourage them to brush it off.
- Praise efforts not outcomes. If you gush over the grade itself, your other child will think that all that matters is the end result. Make a point of noticing when they put in extra effort or is showing marked improvement, even if they’re not earning that A.
- Emphasize areas where the other child excels. Bring attention to all the educational successes in your kids’ schoolwork. Highlight one’s A on a math test with the same enthusiasm as the other’s improvement on the clarinet.
- Never label. There is no smart one, pretty one, athletic one. But you knew that already.
- Remember that the equilibrium can turn. Just as kids’ athletic abilities can ebb and flow over time, so too can grades. Sometimes a kid who rocks geology might get tongue tied in Spanish. Or, a kid who had no trouble in middle school might be thrown by the balancing act of high school. Remind each of your kids that there are certain years they might have to work harder than others and certain classes or subjects in which they might be a natural.
There’s no way around sibling rivalry and comparison, but parents can do their part to keep the playing field as level as possible.
Parents, how have you dealt with sibling rivalry over grades?