On Not Comparing Siblings

This topic was requested a while ago, and I’ve put off actually writing it because it’s such a difficult topic! I think we are naturally wired to compare things — we often use connections we make to try to figure out the world around us, so of course that happens in our parenting! When you have one child, that first child becomes your baseline. You figure out how to raise that particular child, and then another one comes around and it’s suddenly not working anymore. Why? You’re using all the same techniques that have proved to work with your firstborn! But that’s just the thing. Your second child is NOT your firstborn. This is a completely different human you have created. Sure, *some* things might turn out to be similar, but other things will completely baffle you.

Not only do we try to parent our different children in exactly the same ways, but we also may fall into the trap of comparing successes or perceived failures between siblings. This is especially dangerous if you verbalize your comparisons, saying things like, “Why did you only get a B in Math this semester? Your brother got an A-!” because then your child will begin internalizing those comparisons and believing the same things about herself.

So how do we escape this impossible situation, where we benefit from being able to make comparisons between things to enable us to learn and grow, while those very same comparisons could be harmful to our children and our relationships with them? I’m going to suggest something that may seem surprising here… continue to notice those comparisons. Notice the differences. But before you act on them in any way, just observe them: Big brother is stubborn, but he responds when I do XYZ. Little sister digs her heels in more when I do XYZ, but she craves ABC. Big brother did really well on his math test. He is naturally gifted at math and understands those concepts. Little sister did slightly less well, but she worked hard at studying last night and studying more would not have improved that score.

Your natural ability to compare two things can help you to better understand each child as an individual. Notice the ways your children are different. Notice the different ways they respond to you. Notice their individual strengths and their individual struggles, but don’t give value to those differences. Simply observe them, and allow those observations to inform how you respond to each of them as individuals.

I get it — parenting is HARD. Having to come up with different ways of interacting with each of your children to truly meet them as individuals is difficult. But that’s the job you have, and you can do it.

If you’d like some more insight on how to handle difficult parenting situations with children between the ages of 1 and 6 years old, I’d love to invite you to my upcoming webinar on Interacting with Children: Montessori Principles to Use in the Parent-Child Relationship.

During Interacting with Children: Montessori Practices to use in the Parent-Child Relationship, you will:

  • Explore the role of the adult as described by Dr. Maria Montessori
  • Learn practical ways to utilize Montessori principles in your day-to-day parenting of small children
  • Acquire strategies for changing your perspective, adjusting your way of speaking, navigating sibling squabbles, and fulfilling your role in providing boundaries through the prepared environment, positive redirection, and natural consequences

There will then be a Q&A session directly following the presentation so that all attendees’ questions can be answered.

The next available sessions for Interacting with Children: Montessori Practices to Use in the Parent-Child Relationship are as follows:

Saturday, October 9th at 2pm EST


Thursday, October 14th at 8pm EST

Register Now!