Shilpi patiently waited for her pat on the back. But it never came. Her mother glanced at her painting said, “Try to be as neat as Ira.” Shilpi’s drawing quietly went from her hands to the dustbin.
Shilpi stopped painting after that. She tried to bring her sister down. She made up complaints to her parents and teachers about Ira. Obviously, her mother’s comparision between the two siblings had resulted in a change in her behaviour.
Comparisons lead to a lower self esteem
It is obvious that Shilpi felt inferior to her sister from an early age. When a person is made to feel inferior, she or he may try to prove that they are better. The same thing happened with Shilpi. She tried to prove herself better than her sister by pulling her down. At the same time, she lost the enthusiasm for what could have been a creative outlet for her.
When so much energy goes into dealing with negative feelings like envy or inferiority, little energy is left for productive activities like painting, as in Shilpi’s case. Besides, a fear settles in the child that her efforts and talent might not be noticed and appreciated. Therefore, the desire to explore the latent skill fades away.
A child develops an indifferent attitude
Sometimes children adopt an indifferent attitude in response to comparison with a sibling. The moment a parent says, your sister is better, the child replies, “Why bother with me then?” A kind of “who cares” attitude builds in the child. The child sees no reason in making any further efforts. Probably this happened with Shilpi and she never tried to paint again.
Comparisons lead to unhealthy sibling rivalry
One negative outcome is the growing rivalry between two sisters who could have been the best of friends. Ira remained confused as to why Shilpi did all this to her. She had to bear her sister’s strong dislike of her. One sad aspect of drawing comparisons between children is that they grow up disliking each other, without realising that both of them have no part in creating this dislike.
What should a parent do to prevent such feelings in a child?
Be sensitive to your child
If you look at Shilpi’s case, her mother praised Ira while Shilpi was present and she neglected Shilpi’s need to be appreciated and encouraged. Maybe in Shilpi’s case, even if comparison was not direct, she felt it. So parents have to be really careful about what they say in front of their children.
Parents should be fair in giving credits
Along with being sensitive to the feelings of their children, it is very important for the parents to see that they are being very fair in their appreciations i.e. every child should get his or her due credit.
Many parents often ask how they can appreciate a child if she is not doing well? At such times it is important for them to review their attitude towards the child, to see whether they are ignoring certain sides to him that could be appreciated. Adults are often conditioned only toward certain kinds of activities.
For instance, Rahul was always praised for his academic achievements but his brother Som was never encouraged for his talent in painting. For the parents, painting was not considered as valuable as academics. So, in spite of the fact that Som painted well, he never got the praise that he wanted, and deserved.
Som did try to live up to his parent’s expectations in academics, but it was a fact that he was not too good at it and therefore, faced failure at every step. Also his real talent – painting went unnoticed and unexplored.
Help resolve your child’s feelings
One often hears children complaining, “You always take his side only,” or “You love him only.” It is definitely frustrating for parents to handle such emotions, but one good way to combat such complaints is by giving space to and accepting your child’s feelings and not saying that it is wrong to feel so.
Once the child feels that his feelings have been understood and appreciated, he will try to see things as they are in reality.