Eli and Peyton Manning make being competitors look easy. Serena and Venice Williams are each other’s biggest fans.
But don’t you wonder what happened while they were growing up? Jealousy. Anger. Maybe even dislike?
If you’ve got two or more kids in sports, you know what I’m talking about.One player gets a lot of attention; the other doesn’t. One breaks records; the other barely plays.
Or maybe you’ve got two or three great athletes and they are always competing against one another, talking trash about each other’s game. It can get more heated when they play on the same team. What can you to to keep peace in the family and nurture each child’s self-esteem?
1. Broaden your family’s definition of success.
Success is not all about stats, press clippings, or awards. If your child excels, then by all means, celebrate with him. But don’t make those victories the only measure of success. Celebrate good sportsmanship, hard work, and sacrifice. And when one child gets attention for his achievements, be sure the other gets your recognition and praise for successes not easily measured.
At my senior daughter’s season-ending basketball banquet, she did not receive any awards. She did not get chosen for the all-star or all-league teams. But her coach told the audience that Holli–who led the team in prayer before every game–prayed like no one she had ever heard, claiming that Holli’s prayers “were from the heart.”
Her team leadership, her humble heart, and her prayers made her basketball season very successful, and we made sure she knew that.
2. No favorites, please. Before you protest that you would never show favorites, let me ask this: do you give equal time and attention to each of your athletes? Because the kind of favoritism I’m talking is unspoken. It’s placing higher priority on one child’s athletic pursuits because he or she is a better athlete.
I’ve seen this happen. We knew one dad who never missed his sons’ football games–they were stars on the team. But he was a rare sight at his middle school daughter’s basketball games–she barely got off the bench. How do you think she felt about that?
Your favoritism can be felt in the money you spend on one child; and not on another. On the time you spend helping one athlete; and not on another. On the amount of interest you show in one child’s sports; and not in another. You don’t have to say anything; but your actions will speak very loud.
3. Keep your comparisons quiet. I know it’s hard not to compare one child’s progress or efforts to another. Parents can’t help but notice if one is more talented, is a better sport or plays with more heart. But please don’t say it out loud; tuck it away in the back of your mind and leave it there.
Better yet, be a waffle-brain. That’s what I call people who can compartmentalize (like little waffle squares) and be objective about people and issues in their lives. Being a waffle-brain as a parent means you look at each child as an individual, you appreciate individual abilities, skills, strengths, and weaknesses, without comparing. It means you celebrate each child’s individuality.
Saying things like “Someday you’ll be as good a quarterback as your brother” puts pressure on a child and nurtures sibling jealousy.
And don’t even think about using that as a motivational tactic; it doesn’t work, and only makes them mad.
4. Keep the rivalry on the field. Don’t let the competitiveness of the game continue at home. Sometimes your athletes may need to go their separate ways at home until they cool down.
And never allow other family or friends to encourage the rivalry by voicing or showing their comparisons. Encourage them to come watch all players, not just the ones who are better athletes.
When your child grows up in a home where he feels acceptance and celebration, regardless of skill level, he will have no reason to feel like he is rivaling his brother or sister. And don’t be surprised if they become each other’s biggest fans.