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Oct 24, 2022
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I’ve got 2 daughters in gymnastics. One is a new level 3 & and one a new level 4. The older daughter (level 4) is constantly making jealous / insecure comments things like she’s going to be better than me really soon. Or I’ve helped her too much, she’s getting the skills faster than me and is about to overtake me. Or I just need to be better than her because I’m older than her. Or she is going gets all the attention bc she’s getting all these new skills. Or, this used to be my sport until she came along. I hate sharing the attention with her. The L3 is not competitive with her sister at all and doesn’t make any of these types of comparison comments.

My husband and I are not gymnastics people. We don’t put pressure on these girls other than to only do it if they love it. I praise effort, not placement…always. That said, this isn’t about me. No matter how much I praise my L4, it always comes back to having to be better than her sister. It’s like she feels she has her worth and value to lose if she’s not THE best in the sibling set. This is placing so much unnecessary pressure on her. Please, someone give me some advice on how to parent through this!! It’s driving me mad!
 

Aussie_coach

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My heart goes out to your older daughter.

It sounds like she loves gymnastics dearly and kids who love gymnastics dearly often define their sense of self by it. They see themselves as “the gymnast”.

A lot of their self actualisation comes from feeling like they are doing well in the sport. Having a younger sibling share the same sport and seeing the possibility of that sibling progressing past her will impact that self actualisation.

It doesn’t necessarily come from parent pressure. Being an older sister brings with it, it’s own pressure. Older siblings do feel internal pressure to do things first before younger siblings, do things better etc. It’s natural for an older child to feel like they are not doing as well as they should if a younger child appears to be surpassing them in anyway, not just in siblings.

It’s not a personality flaw, it’s part of our in built human nature. Children are wired to want to grow up, mature, improve at things. This internal pressure is human nature.

Your younger daughter won’t feel the same way because she won’t have the same internal expectations that she has to be better than her sister, her sister is older, so her mind will much more easily allow her to accept the idea that she doesn’t need to be better.
 

Aussie_coach

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Having said that there is always a chance your younger daughter will surpass her older sibling and both do need to be able to excel within their potential.

I think the first important step is to allow your older daughter to understand that her feelings are okay, they are normal and healthy and it’s okay to feel this way.

Many parents feel driven to say “stop being jealous” etc. but that makes your daughter feel even worse because now she also has the guilt of feeling like she isn’t a good person.

Let her have some one on one Time to chat to you in a regular basis where she can let her feelings out.

But make sure she understands that’s it’s okay to feel that way but not make comments to bring her sister down, treat her badly etc.

Help your older daughter to see how well she is doing and point out her progress.
 

Aussie_coach

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Another step is to help her see the pluses of having her sister share her sport.

I don’t know how old they are and the benefits will depend on their age, age gap, personality etc.

If they are younger they have someone to play at their gymnastics with, if they are older they have someone who they can chat to about gymnastics things that only other gymnasts understand.

They can practice together etc.

Having a younger sibling in the gym can sometimes give an older sibling a special status at the gym because they will naturally be at the gym more, be at more sessions at competitions, get to know more of the other gymnasts.

Would your gym allow your older daughter to take on any special rolls. Helping out with other younger classes while your younger daughter is in training. Having a job at competitions during your younger daughters sections, like being a runner etc.
 

Madden3

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Aug 24, 2013
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You don’t mention your daughter’s relative ages, and that matters I think. But here are my general thoughts.

My son’s were gymnastics siblings. Younger son followed older into competitive gym. Younger was more naturally gifted, but older worked the hardest/took gymnastics the most seriously. This was true in many areas of their lives, actually.

My eldest felt a ton of rivalry with his brother in many areas, including gymnastics. He also expressed pride in his brother, but there was definitely this underlying sense of anxiety from him. There was rivalry both ways, but the pressure was clearly more felt by my eldest. It was less verbalized than in your situation, but it was definitely there.

I agree with Aussie-coach that what you are describing sounds like oldest child syndrome.

Remember, this is not about gymnastics. Not really. The rivalry could be about anything. Grades. Who’s the better artist. Board games. Anything. So don’t think you cannot understand this because you were never a gymnast. Your parenting style and skills will work here as well as in any other area, and you know your kids best.

But here are my thoughts:

Your elder daughter’s attitude may be understandable, but it is hurting HER. Unless she is incredibly uniquely gifted in something, she will find that throughout her life there are people who are better than her at anything and everything she does. And yes that will at times include her sister. It is part of life, and she will be happier thinking about how to challenge herself to do her best than comparing herself to others.

Also, if the younger sister picks up on her sister’s attitude, that might hurt her, in any number of ways.

So while I can feel sympathy for your older daughter’s feelings, I think her behavior- Constantly verbalizing the concern that her sister is going to best her somehow- is not acceptable- especially if this occurs when the younger sister is around.

Here is what I did. First of all, if discussions about practice were becoming negative, I changed the subject. I don’t mean I did not let the boys tell me things that were important, but for example if my eldest was in a mood about something and I thought he might say negative stuff about the younger, I would table the discussion until I could talk with him about it without his brother present.

And, in an age appropriate way, I regularly reminded my sons to always remember what they can change, and what they cannot change.

They can change how hard they work at practice. They can change how well they listen to the coach and take corrections. They can choose to do stretching work outside of gym, they can choose to only miss a practice if they are sick, etc.

What they CANNOT change is how well another person does in the sport. They have no control over this, whatsoever.

Worrying about things you cannot change is wasted energy. Better to focus on what you can do to improve yourself, than worry about what anyone else can do.

This served us well over the years my son’s were both competitive athletes. Their relationship is better today than it ever was before. Growing older and maturity helps with these things.
 
Oct 24, 2022
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43
All great points.
You don’t mention your daughter’s relative ages, and that matters I think. But here are my general thoughts.

My son’s were gymnastics siblings. Younger son followed older into competitive gym. Younger was more naturally gifted, but older worked the hardest/took gymnastics the most seriously. This was true in many areas of their lives, actually.

My eldest felt a ton of rivalry with his brother in many areas, including gymnastics. He also expressed pride in his brother, but there was definitely this underlying sense of anxiety from him. There was rivalry both ways, but the pressure was clearly more felt by my eldest. It was less verbalized than in your situation, but it was definitely there.

I agree with Aussie-coach that what you are describing sounds like oldest child syndrome.

Remember, this is not about gymnastics. Not really. The rivalry could be about anything. Grades. Who’s the better artist. Board games. Anything. So don’t think you cannot understand this because you were never a gymnast. Your parenting style and skills will work here as well as in any other area, and you know your kids best.

But here are my thoughts:

Your elder daughter’s attitude may be understandable, but it is hurting HER. Unless she is incredibly uniquely gifted in something, she will find that throughout her life there are people who are better than her at anything and everything she does. And yes that will at times include her sister. It is part of life, and she will be happier thinking about how to challenge herself to do her best than comparing herself to others.

Also, if the younger sister picks up on her sister’s attitude, that might hurt her, in any number of ways.

So while I can feel sympathy for your older daughter’s feelings, I think her behavior- Constantly verbalizing the concern that her sister is going to best her somehow- is not acceptable- especially if this occurs when the younger sister is around.

Here is what I did. First of all, if discussions about practice were becoming negative, I changed the subject. I don’t mean I did not let the boys tell me things that were important, but for example if my eldest was in a mood about something and I thought he might say negative stuff about the younger, I would table the discussion until I could talk with him about it without his brother present.

And, in an age appropriate way, I regularly reminded my sons to always remember what they can change, and what they cannot change.

They can change how hard they work at practice. They can change how well they listen to the coach and take corrections. They can choose to do stretching work outside of gym, they can choose to only miss a practice if they are sick, etc.

What they CANNOT change is how well another person does in the sport. They have no control over this, whatsoever.

Worrying about things you cannot change is wasted energy. Better to focus on what you can do to improve yourself, than worry about what anyone else can do.

This served us well over the years my son’s were both competitive athletes. Their relationship is better today than it ever was before. Growing older and maturity helps with these things.
Thank you so much. This is helpful. My girls are 6&8. You are correct, this IS hurting her. We talk a lot about what is in her circle of control and what is not in her control. She does not talk like this around her sister, only to me/her dad and usually while watching her sister do gymnastics.
 

JPC13

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Mar 25, 2022
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Having said that there is always a chance your younger daughter will surpass her older sibling and both do need to be able to excel within their potential.
I can't recall the technical term that people use for the phenomena, but I'm almost 100% sure that younger siblings benefit from an older sibling having acquired skills first in the same way that a team tends to acquire a skill quickly after someone on the team shows that it's possible -- I think the kip is a good example. The first one on a team seems to happen randomly and then all of the sudden 80% of the team can do it. Chris Burdette (who I guess is someone of a controversial guy) at Texas Dreams talks about that a lot -- I'm not sure if it's playing kids off each other in a nasty way, or just saying "if she can do it, so can you!".

I think having a sibling only one level higher than you would be a huge advantage. I've seen otherwise very standard L3s who could throw a nice (to my eye at least) ROBHSBT because they watch an older sister do it a million times at home.

Mckenna Skinner told me that she benefited a lot in compulsories from being the youngest of X gymnasts kids. On the other hand, Simone Biles' younger sister was a seemingly very talented gymnast (though maybe not at the all-world, once in a lifetime level of her sister) who dropped out as a L9 (IIRC) because it was too much to be the little Biles. Someone who's looking for a Masters dissertation topic in some sports field should look at the proportion of Olympic medalists who were the younger sibling of an at least decently high level athlete in their same sport. I suspect it's a giant advantage.
 

JBS

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Please, someone give me some advice on how to parent through this!! It’s driving me mad!

You are definitely not alone... we actually had an article on this a while back...

 

Madden3

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Aug 24, 2013
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Thank you so much. This is helpful. My girls are 6&8. You are correct, this IS hurting her. We talk a lot about what is in her circle of control and what is not in her control. She does not talk like this around her sister, only to me/her dad and usually while watching her sister do gymnastics.
Any particular reason your older daughter has to watch her sister practice?
 
Oct 24, 2022
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Any particular reason your older daughter has to watch her sister practice?
She doesn’t watch her formal practices except on Monday when the youngest’s gym time starts 45mins before the oldest. We live 20 mins from the gym, so on that day, they both go. She also watches her meets as my husband and I both want to go watch both of our kids. My oldest loves watching and sometimes asks to go to the gym to watch even when it’s an off day for her (I teach pre school gym so sometimes she watches while i teach). What I mostly meant by the comment regarding watching her do gymnastics is either meets, practice overlap, or we have an air track at our house and the two of them are constantly taking turns doing floor skills like ROBHS and such. The older watches the younger on those types of occasions.
 

JPC13

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Mar 25, 2022
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or we have an air track at our house and the two of them are constantly taking turns doing floor skills like ROBHS and such.
That is 100% the recipe for the younger one to get her tumbling skills "more easily" than the older one did -- it's not like someone did ROBHS at home in front of your older daughter while she was learning them.

If the older one can't embrace that fact, and understand that it has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with circumstances, she should probably stop doing it.
 
Oct 24, 2022
7
43
That is 100% the recipe for the younger one to get her tumbling skills "more easily" than the older one did -- it's not like someone did ROBHS at home in front of your older daughter while she was learning them.

If the older one can't embrace that fact, and understand that it has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with circumstances, she should probably stop doing it.
She’s 8. I’m sure that is hard for her to understand / accept.
 

Madden3

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Aug 24, 2013
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She doesn’t watch her formal practices except on Monday when the youngest’s gym time starts 45mins before the oldest. We live 20 mins from the gym, so on that day, they both go. She also watches her meets as my husband and I both want to go watch both of our kids. My oldest loves watching and sometimes asks to go to the gym to watch even when it’s an off day for her (I teach pre school gym so sometimes she watches while i teach). What I mostly meant by the comment regarding watching her do gymnastics is either meets, practice overlap, or we have an air track at our house and the two of them are constantly taking turns doing floor skills like ROBHS and such. The older watches the younger on those types of occasions.
Ok, makes sense. I understand the logistics can be very difficult. I was just thinking if these are the situations where you older daughter tends to focus too much on her sister's progress, maybe reducing such scenarios would help. With two kids in competitive gymnastics, it can get very overwhelming with the whole family always at the gym or at meets. Maybe sometimes it would be helpful for your elder daughter to have a playdate or something non-gymnastics related to do instead.
 

Pineapple_Lump

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Jan 31, 2008
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I like all of Aussie's coaches advice. I will only add that it may be worth mentioning this to the gym/coach. Sometimes things are said that are seemingly okay, but can fuel the negative feelings your older daughter is currently experiencing.
I have unfortunately heard coaches say things that were indirectly upsetting to the sibling in their own interpretation.
 

mommyof1

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Jan 31, 2012
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Younger siblings have such an advantage. Often the parent will enroll the younger sibling in the older child's activities at an earlier age because they are familiar with the activity or it's convenient. Only the older child has to fight the battle to get pulled out of rec onto the team track; at most (all?) gyms the coaches will naturally be paying attention to the younger siblings of kids already on team, whereas the first gymnast in the family has to go through a lot more to get noticed. Younger sibling benefits from home equipment that older sibling had to spend years begging for. Etc.
 
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Aussie_coach

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Younger siblings have such an advantage. Often the parent will enroll the younger sibling in the older child's activities at an earlier age because they are familiar with the activity or it's convenient. Only the older child has to fight the battle to get pulled out of rec onto the team track; at most (all?) gyms the coaches will naturally be paying attention to the younger siblings of kids already on team, whereas the first gymnast in the family has to go through a lot more to get noticed. Younger sibling benefits from home equipment that older sibling had to spend years begging for. Etc.
As a gym owner this is very true. Not always just because of the talent, but a lot of other things come with being on team. They have to understand the commitment, be organized, dedicated, pay their fees on time, punctual etc. Once we have had the older sibling on team, we know that the parents understand the commitment, so we are more inclined to look at the younger siblings.

We dont just look at talent when putting kids on team.