Congrats, Your Kid is Gifted...But What About Her Sibling?
"You know," my friend whispers so the kids cannot hear, "they have a program at Julliard for young gifted musicians."
True, my daughter demanded piano lessons at two and a half and was reading music at three and writing her own musical compositions at four but at six, she's still way too young for Julliard…isn't she?
Besides, what would I do with the other kids? They already sit around and wait during her lessons and find ways to occupy themselves while I help her with her daily practicing, not to mention her other activities. Would it be fair to drag everyone two hours into Manhattan so that one child can receive the best musical training?
When I watch the super-talented young performers on “Dance Moms”, I wonder, do they have other siblings? How do their brothers and sisters feel when their mom devotes so much time to one child's talents and interests? What happens if both siblings share an activity, like Brooke and Paige or Maddie and Mackenzie, but one surpasses the other?
As adults, we recognize that life isn't always fair--but what do you do when the uneven playing field is in your own living room?
Of course, I think all my children are brilliant and special...even the 1 year old baby. Still, objectively, we spend more hours pursuing my precociously focused daughter's talents and interests. Will my other two kids come to resent the attention and praise lavished on their big sister?
Turns out that maybe I do not have to be so worried, after all. Although conventional wisdom says that other children will resent a profoundly gifted sibling and the parents, a study found no negative impact and possibly even a positive one. One of the authors of the study, Nancy M. Robinson, PhD, explained that when a child is identified as gifted, giftedness may be a scapegoat for normal sibling rivalry. However, the presence and identification of the giftedness does not actually cause an increase in sibling rivalry. In fact, siblings of gifted children may actually have higher self-esteem, better family relationships, and perform better in school.
Whew, that's a relief! There are things I can do to ensure that all my children are healthy, happy, and living up to their potential.
1. Expect siblings to get along: Sometimes we sabotage ourselves with our anxieties. If we, instead, expect that all family members pitch in and treat each other with respect, then it is more likely the kids will live up to our expectations. That means that your future Broadway baby still has to do dishes before rehearsal and your computer genius does not get a free pass on a messy room. Everyone has to remember please and thank you and excuse me, even if her mind is on proving Fermat's last theorem.
2. Teach that fair is not equal: Really, this is a lesson that all siblings need to learn. Gifts or no, my older kids have to understand that the baby has to be attached to mommy and they're too big for me to carry around the park. Besides, wouldn't they rather play on the swings and slides, anyway? One child is getting a new pair of shoes because he outgrew them but another does not need new shoes because hers still fit. Some children's activities require more money, attention and participation from the parent. As long as each child is getting what he needs, then it is fair, even if the time or money spent on each activity is not equal.