By Matt J.
When looking at sibling relationships in sport, it amazes me when parents create competitors among their children. I grew up with two brothers who were the same age. We were never on opposing teams. But recently, I watch a clip from Toddlers in Tiaras in which the mother speaks on how one child is better than the other. It brings up the question on what motivates the parents to make choices that pit siblings against each other.
In addition to experiences when children compete against each other, are situations where they compete together. When attending high school, the amount of pressure put on my brothers and I was unbearable at times. We had a rare situation of three brothers in grade 11 who were on the same team, but also our older brother was on the team. If one of us under performed then that son was singled out and compared to his brothers.
I also experienced pressure from having a former Olympic athlete as a step father and an uncle who played football at both Mount Allison University (Sackville, NB) and Acadia (Wolfville, NS). In this situation, I not only got measured against my siblings, but also got compared to other family members as well. I feel this would cause a lot of issues within the family. My family seemed to be the exception because we are a blended family. Not being the biological son of a former Olympian made it a bit easier to deal with the hype.
So my belief is that parents must keep the children on the same team. This would allow the children to be seen more easily as equals rather than competitors. The children could not only play together, but it will aid them in acquiring developmental assets.
When parents see children as competitors rather than teammates, it could cause issues with the relationships within the family. Parents like those showcased in Toddlers and Tiaras must re-evaluate how they treat the child they perceive as the “lesser” of the two siblings. Differential treatment can not only damage the child, but can hinder the development of assets. So, as a society, I feel we need to help the siblings by not have them compete against each other.
Davis, N., W., Meyer, B. B. (2008). When sibling becomes competitor: A qualitative investigation of same-sex sibling competition in elite sport. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 20(2), 220-235.
http://www.gridironnewbrunswick.org/hsnews08wk8.html (Brothers are Royal family of football)