Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,
My husband and I have a disagreement about how to raise our two sons who are 6 and 8. He feels that competition makes them excel. He is always comparing them on everything, sports, grades, friends, etc. Our sons do not get along and bicker and fight, call each other names, and put each other down. Is this normal? Also, our oldest son's grades were disappointing this last semester, so the competition does not seem to be working. Can you help, or am I wrong?
While it is normal for siblings to occasionally bicker, if this is a constant pattern, then you should be concerned.
Sibling rivalry is often created by an upbringing where competition and comparisons are made between children. Every child is unique and should be treated as an individual or their self-esteem suffers. Constant comparisons to their sibling are unhealthy and creates animosity. Also, competition between siblings often weakens their desire to achieve and sets them up for failure. In addition, comparisons tell a child that mom or dad only approves of them if they perform like their sibling. Every child needs unconditional love, not love based on expectations of performance, and especially not in comparison to their sibling's achievement.
If your husband will not stop making comparisons, you could talk to the school counselor who should be able to help persuade your husband. Also, it is important to have rules in the house, such as no name calling of any kind allowed. When the bickering starts, it must stop, no matter who started it. If it doesn't end, then the punishment should be no TV, playing on the computer, or other recreational activity, until they get along.