By Alexa Joy Sherman
If there’s one way to help siblings get along (or at least increase the odds of sibling cooperation), here it is: Never engage in sibling comparison.
In spite of parents’ best intentions to avoid favoritism, comparing kids to each other can sneak into the most benign of conversations and situations. “Parents compare children when they’re bursting with anger (e.g., ‘Why can’t you hurry up? Your brother was in the car 10 minutes ago!’) and when they’re bursting with pleasure (e.g., ‘Your big brother has been working on that for an hour and you figured it out in two minutes!’),” notes Adele Faber, Long Island, N.Y.-based coauthor of Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too. “In either case, it only leads to trouble.” In other words, major sibling rivalry.
But how can you avoid the comparison trap and help siblings get along? “The key word is describe,” Faber says. “Describe what you see, what you like or don’t like, or what needs to be done. The important thing is to stick with one child’s behavior.” So, Faber explains, instead of saying, “Why can’t you put away your clothes like your brother?” say, “I see a brand-new jacket on the floor that needs to be put away.” Instead of comparing one child favorably to the other (“You’re so much neater than your brother”), describe what you see (“I see you put away your jacket”).