Report card competition between siblings

Dec 4, 2009 at 11:45 a.m. ET

When report card time comes around, I am a lucky mom. My kids are doing well in school and these formal reports convey that. I am proud of each of my kids' efforts and want to encourage them to continue to try to their best at all times. But how much of one child's report card should I share with my other children. Is it anybody else's business - and does it create an undue level of competition between them?

Girl with bad report card

When the report cards come home, I try to find a few minutes alone with each child to look at it, talk about it and generally express my pride at their efforts. Then I call my husband - away from the kids - to update him on the reports. And then I try not to talk about report cards in front of the other kids because I don't think it's anyone else's business what someone else scored. I may try to convey at the dinner table that night that I am really proud of all my kids, but that's about it. Any further discussion is handled separately.

Unnecessary competition and comparison

I admit that this is, in part, a reaction to how it was at my home growing up. Grades were a big topic, even when it wasn't report card time. The end result was everything, almost no matter how one arrived there, and there was plenty of, "Your sister did so well in math, you should be doing as well or better," or, "Why can't you be more like your brother in history?" This created an unnecessary level of competition and comparison between my siblings and myself - and personal achievement is still a dicey topic among us, decades later.

Maybe I am overcompensating, but my kids seem to have created enough over which to compete and compare, and they don't need one more thing. I never want my kids to feel that I am holding up the achievement of one over the achievement of another. If they want to tell one another their grades on their own, that's one thing (and I am sure they do#, but as parents we have decided not to focus on grades or point them out in that way. This can be a little frustrating; one of our kids is nosy and super-competitive. He wants to know everything and conveying the overall message takes extra time with him.

Different kids, different skill sets

Like the general population, my kids have different strengths and weaknesses - artistically, athletically, and academically. My goal is to let these strengths develop while addressing weaknesses when necessary, and without the undue pressure of what a sibling has done. If one child has worked extremely hard for a grade in English, but their sibling reached a higher grade in English with more ease, I don't want that first child to feel somehow less. For us, and for our family, it's about the effort and the enjoyment of learning, not the end result #though, honestly, the end results so far make me darn proud).

Choosing how to handle grades and report cards in your home can be challenging - and it's highly individual. Whether you announce grades to the whole family or talk about it only in private is up to you. While competition may help motivate one of your kids to do better, it may make another feel somehow less, or unable to keep up - only you can know for sure. In the end, report cards and grades are but one way we evaluate how our kids are learning in school and maturing in general. Keeping it in overall perspective is a good thing whether you announce grades at the dinner table or not.

Tell us: How do you feel about report card competition between siblings? Comment below!

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