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July 13, 2016

My Parents Won’t Stop Comparing Me to My Sister!!!

Art For Ask Nikki July 13th, Parents Compare Me To Sibling

Hi Nikki!

My younger sister and I play three instruments each. We both play the piano and the violin, and then I learn the harp, while she learns the cello. The problem is, my parents and our violin teacher constantly compare my violin-playing skills to my sister’s and say she plays much better than I do, even though she’s younger. I’m already trying my best, but they don’t seem to understand! I’m even thinking of quitting the violin. What should I do?

Music Maniac

Hi Music Maniac!

WOW!! I am SO impressed! I can’t even play ONE instrument, never mind THREE!!! I wish you’d been around when I formed my band!
You must really love music. At least, I’m guessing you do since you signed your letter from Music Maniac. So music’s not something your parents are pushing you to do, right? You actually love it?

(If you don’t love it, I think now’s the time to sit down with your parents and tell them how you really feel. But I’m going to continue with this answer assuming you DO love it.)

It’s never fun to be compared to a sibling. Or anyone, really, but ESPECIALLY a sibling, and SUPER ESPECIALLY a younger sibling. Everyone expects an older sibling to be better at things, JUST because they’re older.

But really? She might be better at violin for a bunch of different reasons. Maybe she has more time to practice it. Maybe she loves it more, so she really dedicates herself to it, while you spend more time on piano or harp. Maybe the fact that she plays cello gives her an advantage when learning the violin. (I know nothing about instruments, but isn’t a cello basically…a giant violin?)

You’re probably laughing at me now. That’s okay. But it goes to show how much better you are at ALL MUSIC than I am. You’re probably way ahead of most people reading this.

So anyway, the first thing is for you to be comfortable with where your sister is at with the violin. If you’re both working hard—and it sounds like you are—it doesn’t matter who’s “better.”

Now, if only your parents and teacher understood that, right? I wonder why they make those comparisons. Maybe they’re trying to inspire you to push harder/practice more/do whatever they think it takes to be the best?

It’s serious if it’s gotten to the point where you’re considering quitting violin, and I’m sure that’s not what your parents or teacher want. So, I think you should sit down with your parents and teacher and say something like, “When you compare me to my sister, it doesn’t make me want to do better. It makes me want to stop playing violin. I’m trying my hardest and would really like if you tried not to compare us.”

I think this can apply to a lot of other situations, too. Parents compare kids in all sorts of ways. So do teachers and coaches. And when that happens, I think these are the steps:

  1. Try not to let it bother you. Remind yourself that you can only do the best you can, and you can’t control how other people do. ALSO, other people doing well shouldn’t take away from your own achievements. Like, if I do ten pull-ups in PE (ha ha, NOT!), and then someone comes along and does 11, that’s great for them, but I STILL DID TEN! And that’s still amazing! (And pretty much impossible! )
  2. Talk about your feelings. If it’s possible (and hopefully it’s always possible, with parents), let them know you’re trying your hardest. Tell them you know they mean well and are trying to help motivate you, but you’d feel more motivated without comparisons. If you are in a situation where you really can’t express your feelings to the person doing the comparing, find a way to express it another way. Maybe write in a diary, or go for a run, or complain to a friend. Whatever you do, don’t let it bottle up until you do something drastic (like quit violin)!!
  3. Try not to make comparisons yourself. You might not be aware of doing it, but chances are you make your own comparisons. You might not be able to control whether or not other people compare you unfairly, but you can at least be sure you don’t do it to yourself!

I hope that helps and that you’re able to communicate to your parents and teacher that you’re doing your best. I’m sure they know that already, but I hope they can make you FEEL it!!

Readers, what are some other ways that parents, teachers, or coaches compare you? How do you respond?