Tag Archives: comparison trap

How do we prevent sibling rivalry?

As a mom of three kids, two of whom are twins, one of my biggest challenges is keeping sibling rivalry at bay. I realize that some form of sibling rivalry is inevitable and it’s been happening since the beginning of time (thank you very much, Cain and Abel). My sister and I certainly fought and competed with one another growing up. But I always imagined — before having children – that my kids would love and support one-another, growing-up to be best friends. There were even signs that this might happen when they were very little. My eldest doted on her baby brother and sister when they came home from the hospital, bringing them her blankets and stuffed animals when they cried. When they were toddlers, my twins would waddle out to the playground hand-in-hand, or help each other up when they fell. It was so sweet and heart-warming…and lasted precisely 19 months, 16 days, 3 hours, and 27 seconds.

Now, here I am today with a teenager and two pre-teens. Mornings are torture as they snap at each other, blame each other, and try to boss one another around. Mealtime is filled with arguing over whose turn it is to talk, trying to get one another in trouble, or telling us about what the others did wrong at school that day. And car trips. Oh, don’t get me started on car trips! They are the worst! If I had a dollar for every time I said “no more talking, looking, or breathing at each other until we get home,” I would be able to afford that $30k a year private college my teen is eyeing.

Those pre-children dreams I had of raising three best friends are a distant memory now. Most days I’m just hoping nobody gets pushed down a well or sold to traveling Ishmaelite’s (thank you very much to all of Joseph’s brothers for planting that idea in my kids’ heads)!

I may not be able to completely stop the fighting and bickering that happens between my three, but one area I haven’t been willing to give up on is keeping them from the comparison trap. I never want any of my kids to feel like they aren’t as good as their sibling(s), or that they are expected to be the same. I know that this type of sibling rivalry will only create resentment and separation. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed as they get older this seems to be happening more and more, and it literally keeps me up at night worrying about the impact to their self-esteem, and their relationships.

Despite the many nights spent worrying and praying over this, and my resolve to not let it happen, I can tell you that [spoiler alert] I unequivocally have not figured out a perfect formula to prevent it. But there are a few things that seem to help more days than not, and I’m sharing these with you in hopes you will also share what is working in your family. Maybe together we can create our own play book on how to prevent a lifetime of competition and animosity between our children.

  1. Help them choose goals that are specific to their talents and abilities. This year all of my kids decided to run cross country. The three of them have varying degrees of athletic ability and experience running and if they all had the same goal of coming in first in their age group or running the same time, it would create a lot of frustration, disappointment, and comparison. So I talked to them regularly about what their individual goals were, focusing on improving on their previous times, and achieving personal bests, instead of all vying for the same goals. We do this with grades, too. My youngest daughter has really struggled with her spelling grade, so our focus this year has been on improving that. While my high-schooler has a history of late or missing homework assignments, so our focus has been eliminating those. This way we can celebrate when each child achieves a personal milestone that is meaningful to them, instead of only celebrating who got the most A’s and B’s.


  1. Privately encourage the older siblings to mentor the younger ones in specific areas. Now, I realize this may not work in every sibling situation. But my teen is great at making others feel included. She’s always been the kid who seeks out the loners and sits with them at lunch. Meanwhile, my younger daughter has been struggling to balance different groups of friends and the hurt feelings that can come between middle-school girls. Frankly, she doesn’t always like my advice or listen to it because, well I’m her mom – what do I know! So I’ve asked her sister to talk to her about it because my younger daughter looks up to her big sister. It lifts her up to think her big sister is taking a decided interest in her life. Meanwhile, it makes my eldest feel needed and important, instead of feeling annoyed by her little sister.

    If there is something one of your younger kids is struggling with, consider bringing in an older sibling, sharing only what is necessary and appropriate so as not to break confidences, and encourage them to help out. It inspires the older sibling, showing them what an important role they can play, while potentially opening doors to a pattern of siblings confiding in and supporting each other.


  1. Never, ever compare one sibling to another out loud. Notice my caveat of “out loud” here. What I really mean is don’t do it in front of your kids. The psychology magazines will tell you we, as parents, shouldn’t compare our kids at all. But just being real here, that’s not easy for me. Always in my head I look at my younger two and wonder how they are twins when they are SO different in every way. I look at my oldest and wonder how it is her sister is so organized and she struggles. I look at my son and wonder why dental hygiene seems to be so much more important to his sisters than it is to him. But I try very hard not to say these things out loud.

    If my children pick-up that I’m comparing them to their sibling and see one child doesn’t quite match another in a specific area, then they start to do this, too. Not only does it become a slippery slope to one feeling inferior to another, but it gives the other sibling a sense of superiority that I don’t want any of my kids to have (ok, well except maybe with the dental hygiene thing – if only my son cared enough about it to be shamed by his sisters!).


Those are three tactics I’ve been trying to employ in my house, and have found success, to varying degrees. I would love to hear what works for you and your children!

3 ways to prevent sibling rivalry

When marriage feels hard

I recently read an article by Joanna Gaines talking about her marriage to her husband Chip (hosts of the show “Fixer Upper”, among other things). In the article she talked about how she has never wanted to go on a girl’s weekend or spend time away from her husband, how being with him gives her energy and she thrives on their togetherness. I believe she is being sincere when she says that, and Chip and Joanna Gaines are an adorable couple who appear happily married and in-love. But my marriage looks nothing like theirs.

I can’t relate to Joanna’s desire to spend all of her time with her husband. You see, I do enjoy a good girl’s weekend. I desire alone time. I get energy from these things and sometimes I crave them desperately. The honest truth is that there are moments when being married drains me. It can leave me feeling weary and depleted. Because you know what? Marriage can be hard.

Now, don’t get me wrong…I truly love my husband with every ounce of my being. I love date nights and I especially love a weekend away with the man who has been my one and only for over 20 years. We need those moments to reconnect and remember why we fell in love in the first place. We are really good together and still genuinely enjoy each other’s company. However, there are also nights that I lie awake feeling frustrated and angry, praying for God to give me peace and sleep. There are days that I feel like we just can’t get it right…that we still have the same fight we’ve been having forever. There are moments when I feel resentment or jealousy and wonder if it’s really supposed to be this much damn work. And in those moments, it’s so, so easy to look at my marriage and compare it to others and worry that maybe we got it all wrong.

It’s easy to look at the couple at church who still stare at each other adoringly after 30 years; to see the couple on Facebook posting about how blessed they are to be married to their best friend; to see the couple on TV who spends every minute together and lovingly talk of their perfect partnership in life and business — and then compare these marriages to my own and think that my marriage doesn’t measure up.

And I get that what I see of other marriages is only a glimpse of reality…the public face of their marriage. Yet often when I speak to people who left their marriage or have been unfaithful they cite how marriage was just too much work; they always had the same fight, they didn’t feel happy, they fell out of love, and I wonder: by what standards and expectations are we measuring love and marriage? How many of us are looking at the public face of seemingly “happily married” couples and weighing our own marriage against it? How many of us have accepted the mainstream, Hollywood or Disney version that lasting relationships end with “happily ever-after”? How many of us feel unsatisfied in our own marriage and even give up because we decide it doesn’t look like these other marriages, so it must not be meant to last?

This is a problem. Because this is not how God designed love and marriage. Nowhere does God promise real love will be effortless or come to us easily. In fact, He actually says the opposite. He says love requires some hard work. It requires patience, and humility. It requires we stop envying what others have and that we cast-off our own self-seeking motivations (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

Nowhere is it written that marriage is about happily-ever-after. God’s design for marriage is sacrificial. It’s about a husband giving himself up to his wife, and caring for her in a way that puts her above all else. It’s about a wife respecting and loving her husband with reverence and humbleness. It’s about both leaving behind their individual selves and becoming one (Ephesians 5:22-33). And that last part might sound romantic at first, but when you realize that becoming one means dying to self and striving to love another the way Christ loves…it suddenly gets very real and feels nearly unattainable. Paul even declares it to be a “profound mystery.”

God didn’t promise us happily-ever-after. He never said a healthy marriage happens with ease. In fact, He made it pretty clear that there would be some real intentional work involved. And this is why I think it’s important that we acknowledge that sometimes marriage feels hard. It’s supposed to!

A healthy marriage does not equal a marriage without conflict. A healthy marriage does not mean you desire to be by your spouses side 24×7, or that you never get on one another’s nerves. It is OK to admit that some days working through conflict with your spouse drains your energy and zaps your patience. We are human beings after-all. And, no offense to the Gaines’s, but I believe that couples who publicly perpetuate the idea that their marriage is always harmony and sweet togetherness, are actually doing a disservice to the reality of what a divinely-appointed marriage is supposed to be.

This is not to say we should publicly complain, shame, or belittle our spouses. I absolutely believe we should be building each other up. But it’s OK to say, “you know what? I love my wife, but some days being married to her takes a lot of energy.” OR “Loving my husband the way God calls me to love is not easy today.” Because if we are in a community of believers where we feel safe to be honest about our challenges, we can find strength and encouragement within each other. We can say, “Me, too. I’ve been there. I know how you feel. It will be OK. God will see you through this.”

So here it is. My moment of truth and honesty. This week marriage has felt hard. So, I’ve been turning it over to God. Because while He never promised me it would be easy, He did say that if we invite Him into our marriage it will remain strong. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” – Ecclesiastes 4:12.

If your marriage feels like hard work right now, know you’re not alone. But more importantly, know that it is not an indication that your marriage is unhealthy or failing. Get off Facebook, turn off the TV and stop comparing your marriage to everyone else’s. Whatever is weighing on you, turn it over to God; invite Him to be in the center of it all. He will help you through.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

photo credit: Omar Parada Untitled via photopin (license)

Guest post: Hope for the sidetracked heart

I met Joy Williams last year at the She Speaks conference. It was one of those moments that you just know is divine intervention at play. Joy has a heart for encouraging women and an infectious love of the Lord. Her writing is filled with faith, encouragement and practical advice. I love this message she’s written to share with all of you about losing sight of our goals and the person God has called us to be. But it’s a message filled with reassurance that no matter how far we stray, God actively seeks us and brings us back to Him. I’m just thrilled to be able to share this encouraging reminder with all of you.

As Ryan left out the front door he said, “Mom, I’ll be right back.”  I smiled as my son did his routine chore of taking the trash to the curb.  But my smile turned into a perplexed frown as I watched him become sidetracked.

It began when he saw his basketball resting by a tree in our yard.  A few bounces later, he glanced towards the trash can.  But the voice of a friend two houses away grabbed his attention instead.  After several fakes, dribbles, and drives with the ball, he and his friend talked for a while.   Eventually, the real reason for being outdoors re-registered with Ryan.  Sincerity returned.  He delivered the trash can to the curb as he was delivered from distraction.

It was easy for me to notice Ryan’s zigzag pattern that day.  But to be completely honest, I often miss my own.  As I glance away from a goal or entertain an unproductive thought, the trip from sincere to sidetrack begins.  But looking away from the significant becomes costly.  The consequences of missing opportunities with whom or what I care about can become a high price to pay.  However, Christ’s redemption invites me to learn from my mistakes and not just live with them.

sidetracked circle

What happens when you’re in pursuit of a worthy goal?  Are you sidetracked or sincere?  For those of us who waver, I believe it’s helpful to know the reasons why we fluctuate.  Don’t worry, I’ll go first.  Maybe you’ll see your reasons too.

Challenges.  When the going gets tough this tough girl can get distracted.  At times I take too long in my pause to persevere.   And like my son on his trip to the curb, my diversions delay my deliverance.

Comparisons.  In a world where people are dubbed “best-dressed” or “most liked,” I may struggle to make the best decision – to be who God created me to be.   When I compare myself to others, I distort my God-given value.  As a result, my flaws or my achievements receive far more attention than His grace.

Cravings.   If my deepest desires are not submitted to God, they become a detour from His destiny.  My cravings may vary but God’s purpose for me is always the same — to glorify Him.  When I drift from that desire, my godly focus begins to falter.

“God seeks after the sidetracked heart, but the sincere heart seeks after God.”

My challenges, comparisons and cravings can cause me to stray from God’s plan.  But the same reasons for my becoming sidetracked can also serve as my pivot to becoming sincere.  As I entrust my challenges to the Lord, His peace surpasses my understanding.  And when I compare His grace to earthly grandeur, frankly there is no comparison.  Thankfully, as my soul longs for Him sincerity starts to surface.

If you’re familiar with the sidetracked struggle, here’s some good news. God seeks after the sidetracked heart, but the sincere heart seeks after God.  This critical pivot is only made possible by the strength and grace we find in Jesus Christ.  When we turn away from our distractions and trust Him, the pivot is complete.  Then He becomes the reason for hope in the heart and the source of joy to the soul.

“A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when the true (genuine) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people as these as His worshipers.” – John 4:23 AMP

Joy A WilliamsJoy A. Williams is a writer and speaker.  For over 15 years, she’s led small group bible studies and spoken at Women’s retreats and conferences. She is the author of Friendship MAPS: A Journey through Maturity, Aspirations, Perspectives, and Struggles.  Whether it is in print or in person, Joy enjoys sharing biblical truths about the grace of God. Through her weekly blog at www.joyawilliams.com, she encourages the sincere or sidetracked truth seeker with hope for the heart and joy to the soul.