Two blonde boys, one tall, muscular, and a natural athlete. The other one is younger, skinnier, and also a natural athlete. One of them, however, has the tenacity to go with his talent, and this one factor takes his natural athleticism and punches it up a notch.
On the soccer field or the baseball diamond, our two boys are competitors through and through. Most nights they come home crusted in dirt, sweaty, sometimes teary depending on who won and just how physical the game got in the backyard. They are one another’s greatest rivals when it comes to all things sports related, but I also want them to be each other’s greatest fans.
Brothers have a natural bent toward competition. It is in their little male nature to want to one-up the guy next to them, and the closest guy will most likely be the one living under the same roof.
A little good-natured sibling rivalry isn’t a bad thing. Competition will make all of us try a little harder and want to be a little better, but how do we help the competitive boys in our midst move beyond the playing field, and mold them into not only one another’s greatest challengers, but also each other’s number one cheerleaders?
Here are three ways to encourage your competitive boys to become one another’s greatest fans both on and off the field:
1.) Let Them Play Together as Often as Possible
It isn’t uncommon for the younger of my two boys to be a little better at sports. Spending more time playing with older boys pushes him athletically, and he will either rise to the occasion or quit trying to keep up. This is an opportunity for both boys to enjoy healthy competition together in the safety of your back yard.
This is also the perfect place for them to learn and practice good sportsmanship. I have one child who takes losing very, very personally. I’d rather the meltdowns occur here than on a public field. Every day he’s learning to temper his need to win by congratulating his brother on a good game–even if he has to say congratulations through gritted teeth.
2.) Don’t Overpraise One of the Brothers
Both of our boys are gifted baseball players. One is a great pitcher, the other excels at first base. Pointing out their individual gifts within the same sport keeps some of the jealous competition at bay. This can be challenging, however, when we’re in a group setting and one of the boys is singled out for his ability in front of the other.
As mothers, we often recognize the differences in our children’s abilities before others, and we have the task of not pitting them against one another. It’s best to watch how often you speak of one brother’s talent in front of the other, and to instead, praise and build up both boys for their individual gifts.
3.) Encourage Them to Cheer One Another On
As often as possible, the brothers should attend one another’s games, and it should be expected that they watch and cheer one another on. They should be the first to stand up and give a joyful shout when brother makes a good play. This communicates an I’ve-got-your-back mentality that will give each brother a boost of confidence, and will ignite a special kind of life-long camaraderie.
It’s also wise to keep them from coaching one another from the sidelines. Let them encourage, not instruct, in order to preserve the brotherly bond.
Brothers born with a competitive drive to be the best also have the potential to be the largest influencers for athletic success in one another’s lives. When those athletic, competitive brothers become each other’s super fans, they will not only spur one another on to be better, stronger, tougher, and fiercer, but they will also know that at the end of the day, brotherhood and family supersede sports.
For a sweet and encouraging read on well-known athletic brothers, check out this post on the 25 Greatest Brothers in History.
To understand the history of sibling rivalry, head to Genesis and re-read the story of Jacob and Esau. If ever there was a cautionary tale of playing favorites, that was it.
Finally, for those of you raising athletic challenges, here is an old post I wrote on how to keep your children, and yourself, humble in sport.
Kelli Stuart is a writer and a mom of four who spends most of her days shuttling children from one event to another in her smokin’ hot minivan. For years, Kelli perfected the art of the starving artist by ghost writing, editing, and writing newsletters back when newsletters were actually printed on paper. In 2008, Kelli discovered blogging when her then-youngest was a newborn. She launched her first site, Minivans Are Hot, as a way to write about the often baffling and hilarious business of being a mother knowing that if she didn’t laugh at life, she just might cry. She’s recently transitioned to a new space online where she loves connecting with creative-heart moms to encourage them to continue developing and using their creative gifts for God’s glory! You can find her over at KelliStuart.com — Kelli currently lives in Tampa, Florida where she tries hard to concentrate on balancing her love of writing with her desire to sit on the beach and read a good book.