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Athletic Son Getting More Attention
Q: Our sons are ten, nine, and six. The nine-year-old is an exceptionally good athlete. As parents we are actively involved in each child's life, but how do we encourage one without making the others feel they fall short when they are not as accomplished?
A: In our culture, a young, exceptional athlete draws a lot of positive attention. He starts being treated very differently by both his peers and other adults. It's very important for the parents of such children to place their outstanding athleticism in a healthy context. Parents must be careful not to allow their star athletes to consider themselves better or more deserving than others simply because they are exceptional in this one arena.
Your other two sons, especially your oldest boy, are readily aware that their brother is a talented athlete and receives special attention for his athletic success. Withholding enthusiasm or encouragement for your son's athletic pursuits neither serves him nor his siblings. It's every parent's responsibility to appreciate the natural talents of his kids. Make sure that you follow through on that responsibility for all three of your sons.
Allow your nine-year-old to view himself as much more than just a talented athlete. Notice all his special qualities, who he is (e.g., kind, compassionate, funny), not just what he does well. Don't forget to give your other boys the same attention. Celebrate all their respective talents and interests. They will come to know you as parents who really pay attention to the special qualities that they possess, while not valuing one son's gifts or skills above the others.
At this stage, it might be quite hard for your oldest son to feel inferior to his younger brother as an athlete. Some sensitivity to this potential problem is probably in order. I am sure that you will make all of your sons feel like you love and appreciate each one "the best." Thanks for writing.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.