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Siblings and Self-Esteem

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: We have a daughter just starting kindergarten. She is very bright but has not been motivated to read very much on her own. We have not pushed this yet -- we know this is normal. Our problem is her three-year-old brother who is catching on to reading and numbers VERY quickly. His teachers have been astounded by his abilities. Our daughter is concerned that she is slow because he is so quick. Any insight on how to get both kids reaching their full potential while not destroying any esteem?

A: Your enthusiastic reaction to your son's skills in reading and math may be making your daughter feel slow in comparison. Are you asking him to perform for friends and relatives? If so, this is probably enhancing her feelings of inferiority. Also, are you as enthused about the work she is bringing home from school?

A bright little girl probably has many excellent papers. Display them prominently on the refrigerator. Have her put them in letters to grandparents and other fond relatives. After school each day, look over your daughter's work with her and show a genuine interest in what she is doing at school. She needs to know that you value how well she is doing.

Make it a point to avoid comparing your children's skills in reading, math, and other areas. It can only lead to feelings of inferiority in one child, as well as sibling rivalry.

Please keep in mind that kindergarten teachers don't consider parental help in developing reading and math skills as important as developing language, thinking, social, self-help, fine motor, and speaking skills in preparation for school? Most of your son's time should be spent in learning about the world from the hands-on experiences he will get through play.

As you have said, your daughter should not be expected to be reading independently. Kindergarten children, typically, only start reading toward the end of the year. For now, focus on increasing her motivation to read, not on actually having her read. The best way to do this is by reading to her as often as you can.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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