Never Compare Your Children To Each Other?

I was just watching a thing on the Today Show and they were talking about how birth order has an affect on kids’ lives, blah,blah, blah. They said you should never compare your children to each other. I think as far as abilities, interests, etc., that’s probably true (barring the occasional child whose interests lie in the lighting-cats-on-fire realm).

But what about things like cleaning your room, doing your homework on time, promptness, beating the crap out of each other, etc.? What’s wrong with saying things like, “Your brother seems to be able to keep his room clean and he has 2 after school activities, just like you.”?

I only have one kid, so I can’t relate (as Bill Cosby said, people with one kid don’t really count!).

What do you Parents of More Than One Kid think?

I only have one kid, but I have a sister two years younger than me. When *my * parents said things like “Your sister seems to be able to keep her room clean and he has 2 after school activities, just like you.” I didn’t exactly find it motivational. Mostly, I thought “That’s because she’s a loser with no social life.” Mostly I *said * “That’s because she’s insecure and requires your approval. You should be proud that I’m so well adjusted that I know you love me even though my room is dirty!”

In my opinion, rewarding the better behaved child is much more likely to motivate the poorly behaved one than direct comparisons are. When my sister got a shiny new television for her nice clean room, I suddenly became much more interested in keeping my room tidy.

We don’t compare our two kids, even in situations like the one you described. (Well, we try very, very, very hard not to compare them; sometimes something slips out.) When I was a kid, my mom was constantly drawing comparisons between me and my three siblings, and it fostered a lot of resentment and anger. Why couldn’t my sister get good grades like me? Why couldn’t I keep my room clean like my sister? At the time it just irritated and angered me, but in retrospect I think I just wished that Mom could appreciate me for who I was instead of wishing that I could be my sister, or that my sister could be me, or whatever.

If room cleaning were a problem, I’d deal with each child on their own terms. Your brother’s ability or inability to clean his room has nothing to do with you; you are expected to keep your room clean, period. If it isn’t cleaned up, you will face consequences. I’m not going to use the kids as leverage against each other to get them to do chores.

As a kid, my usual response to, “Why can’t you do more like your sister?” was “Well, I’m not my sister.” And I wasn’t. And my son isn’t his sister, and my daughter isn’t her brother. They’re individuals and they deserve to be treated as such.

Husband: “Honey, we’re raising a wiseass - smart, but a wiseass.”

Wife: “Gee, I wonder who she could have got that from.”


Man, that’s pretty much a quote from my experience, but from a golf buddy, rather than my spouse. Guy asks me how the kids are doing and I say really good, tho at times they tend to be quite the wiseasses. To which he responded…

I don’t know how much we compare our kids, in terms of “why can’t you be more like your sibling?” But a huge part of parenting is modeling desireable behavior, attitude, etc. As well as identifying examples and causes of undesireable behavior. And family members - parents and kids - are the most appropriate subjects of comparison. We all know more about each other than we do about anyone else, and we share tremendous common influences.

So if one kid is doing something different (and undesireable) than a sibling, we will bring it up as a discussion. Why did you do X instead of Y? During the course of the conversation, it will not be unusual to observe that actrions result from choices, and we will look to family members to see what choices they have made.

Not, “Why can’t you do Y like your sibling?” We don’t generally demand uniformity, but tend to have pretty high requirements that they pursue some interests, contribute to the household, and achieve good grades.

In our experience, our kids will draw comparisons to each other as often if not more often than we, in terms of “Why do I have to do X if my sibling doesn’t?”

Dunno. I think the example given in the OP is one where I would be quite comfortable making a comparison (“your brother manages to make the effort to do X, when by honest analysis, he should find it harder; why can’t you at least try?”), whereas comparisons of the type “you’re stupid compared to your sister, who is your junior” are (IMO) almost entirely destructive.

Yeah, I’d have no qualms about the comparison in the OP.

“Your older brother wears 37 pieces of flair. Why can’t you be like that?”
The most likely response to a comparison to a “better” sibling is resentment and possible passive-aggressiveness. This is probably most true with middle children. Why would anyone think this kind of thing would be a motivator?

I’m not talking about abilities. Each kid is different there. I’m talking about performing tasks that help the household run smoothly, being on time…things that one kid will make the effort to do and the other won’t. I don’t see anything wrong with drawing attention to the fact that, say, one kid is pulling all the weight with regard to chores and the other kid blows them off or does them half-assed. Behavior vs. ability. I wouldn’t dream of saying, “Gee your sister is able to play concert piano…why can’t you?” But I could easily see myself saying, “Your sister manages to get the laundry done on her day, yet I always have a dryerful of wrinkled clothes when it’s your turn. What gives?”

But again, the reaction you’re likely to get is “Because I have better things to do, unlike my loser sibling.”

When you compare kids, for whatever reason, all you do is aggravate whatever issues they already have with each other. No kid wants to be *more * like her pain-in-the-ass brother or sister.

Well, as long as my kids live in my house, I get a considerable say as to the value of their choices/activities. And if they think it is “better” to sit in a messy room, chatting on the computer, and/or watching TV and playing video games, well, sorry, but that is not an acceptable choice in my house. They can do whatever they wish when they are supporting themselves.

If they are very busy with school, activities and/or work, we are glad to work out schedules and measures by which they can keep up with their contributions to the household.

Further, they are not permitted to call their siblings “losers.” I cannot stop them from thinking it, but if they do think it, they are mistaken. Absent a significant and unforgiveable transgression, they should respect and value their immediate family.

I am of the opinion that a parent ought to try to impart a number of important lessons, including the maintainance of property/living quarters, contribution to the family/living unit, physical and social activity, growth and/or achievement in any number of areas, future awareness/planning, and countless others.

(I imagine many of you are counting your blessings that you are/were not raised in casa Dinsdale!)

Parental comparisons only have the effect of causing the child to get annoyed with the parent, and probably with his/her sibling(s). It can never end well.

Meanwhile, children are constantly evaluating themselves with respect to their siblings (and just about everybody else), and acting on their conclusions. We parents tend not to find out about the comparisons drawn, and the often perverse conclusions reached, until years later. Even then, what we are told is likely to be distorted.

In my not-at-all-limited experience, parents almost always undermine themselves when they try to influence their childrens’ behavior directly. The best approach is to talk to the child without pushing the parental agenda too overtly, and to lead by example. Both of these take time and effort, and many parents are, unfortunately, to lazy or ignorant to bother. And yeah, I plead guilty for trying the lazy way on far too many occasions, but it never worked, and I got better.

Hmm. I wonder about birth order stuff. Of course my brother and I were only two kids, but we sprang from the womb with our personalities in place.

Which they will be far more likely to do if you don’t pit them against each other.

Hit submit too soon. :smack:

Dinsdale, I agree with pretty much everything that you said about child-rearing, I just don’t think that comparing your children to each other is the way to accomplish any of those things.

Wow, well said MsWhatsit! :cool:

I don’t have kids yet, but I don’t want to do to them what my mother did to my brother and me. Mouse_Bro and I are 18 months apart in age, I’m older. Before we started kindergarden, our mother had our “intelligence” tested. I don’t remember the test, but I’ll never forget the results: I was “slightly below average” and Mouse_Bro was “above average.” Gee, if I had a dollar for every time our mother proudly said “Mouse_Bro is in gifted and talented” I’d be very rich.

Now that we’re adults, Mouse_Bro is an executive chef and I work in transplant immunology research. There are days when I want to scream “I’m pretty fucking smart to!” sigh

To make a long post short: Yes, try to avoid comparing your kids.

Never Compare Your Children To Each Other?

It’s silly to, when there are many of other people’s children to compare them to.

Why even bring the sister into it at all? If the kid isn’t getting laundry done, address that problem as the kid’s problem. The sister doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not the miscreant sibling’s laundry gets done. What purpose would bringing her in as a point of comparison serve, when you could just say “You aren’t getting your laundry done – what gives and how can I help?”

I try not to. My daughter is barely a teenager and insecure enough as it is. “Why can’t you do your homework quickly and get the dishes done on time like your brother?” on the wrong day could reduce her to tears (I’d forgotten about PMS, I haven’t had it in so long), and “Why can’t you put a bit more effort into the way you dress and present yourself the way your sister does?” for my oldest just seems silly; he’s not a girl, so he isn’t going to place as much emphasis on it as she does. They’re both vastly different people, they both have different strengths and weaknesses. They also have a very good relationship for a pair of teenaged siblings, and I think forcing them into that kind of negative competition for my approval could hurt that relationship.

I address their shortcomings on a one-on-one level; if I’m unhappy with something they do, I tell them. A comparison isn’t usually necessary; my daughter knows I want her to finish her tasks more quickly and my son knows it grates on my nerves when he dresses like a slob and won’t fold his clothes.

I once asked my children “Do you guys think one of you is my favorite?” They both said yes, the other one. I was a little shocked, I try to treat them as evenly as I can.