Strengths & Weaknesses and helping siblings manage/understand differences in ability - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 10-19-2012, 11:19 PM - Thread Starter
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This might get a little long.  


My daughters are 4y10m and 2y10m.  


My 4 year old has some gross motor planning delays that she has greatly improved through occupational therapy, as well as overall poor body awareness.  Right now, it just presents as being clumsy.  She's pretty much fearless now (doesn't take initiative to do things herself) but if asked to do something, like climb a ladder, she'll put her all into it and try try try.  Her social anxiety is much, much better, she'll say a few words to strangers now and although she's been diagnosed with selective mutism, is doing that far less often.  She's very smart, and very artistic and creative.


My 2yo is her polar opposite.  She's very active, very competitive, and very outgoing.  She could climb the furniture before she could walk.  She's a daredevil.  Jumped off of grandma's couch a few months ago and split her face open on the coffee table.  She didn't even flinch when we took her to the ER to get glued back together.  She's very athletic.  She could care less about art, but will sit and copy her sister's drawings in the interest of competition.


My dilemma:

They are both currently in gymnastics 2 days/wk.  We are at a gym that offers early childhood classes and advances to team gymnastics and tumbling.  My 4yo has been in it since she was 18 months old, though we took a break last year because of her social anxiety.  The girls are in two separate classes.  My 2yo is in a Moms & Tots class.  We sing songs and stretch, and do a little bit of tumbling and beam and bar practice- it's minimal, really, no pressure on kids to do anything.  My 4yo is in a "beginner" class that's one step up from this class- essentially the same thing, but with no parent there.


Next session my 2yo will be 3- she'll be old enough to join her big sister in the "beginner" class.  My 2yo's instructor wants her to do one session in that class, and if she listens well enough she'll move her up to the "intermediate" class.  My nephew also goes to this gym and followed the same route- he bypassed his peers and is now 5.5yo and on the lower level boys gymnastics team.  I'm told by the instructors that my 2yo DD seems to be following the same route.


There are a few issues at hand..

-I would normally say no, and let my 2yo stay at the level she's at, as well as in the "beginner" class, for a few more years.  However, she's very bored in her class right now.  She is physically capable of doing more- and gets very excited when our instructor shows us something new.  She has told me multiple times that she wants to go with big sister's class.  (They have class at the same time, just on different floors).

-I feel like I can't put her in the same class at the same time as my 4yo.  I feel like they'll both be hindered by eachother's presence.  My 4yo needs a physical class for her motor planning.. gymnastics is perfect for it.  My 2yo is really easily distracted and I know that in the presence of big sister, neither one of them will be listening to their instructor.  That and they fight like crazy.. they do not get along.  

-If being in the same class together *does* work out and they both go as planned, I don't want my 4 year old to feel bad about her sister being able to do things that she can't.  My 2 year old has that competitive edge, like I mentioned.  And if she does pass her sister up into the next level (intermediate), how am I supposed to explain that to my 4 year old?  Once my 4 year old turns 6 she'll age out of the class she's in- but if she's not physically at the standards for the intermediate class, I'm not sure she'll be able to be in it at all.


I feel terrible.  I've discussed this with the coaches.  I've been told that it will be a great lesson for my kids to learn about eachother's strengths and weaknesses, and to be okay with who they are.  My 4yo is so bright, so smart, so creative, her art blows me away.  She'd be better off in a pottery class or something- I just feel so so terrible.  I don't know how to talk to her about it.  I don't want her to feel sad, I don't want her to be hurt.  I also don't want to hold my younger DD back because she is so ready and so eager to move on.  And she needs this outlet for her physical energy.  She's just a big ball of energy and it's quite taxing!


My husband wants to pull my 4yo out of gymnastics and put her in another activity.  I don't want to do that- it took her long enough to become accustomed to this park and feel "ok" with being there.  I may enroll her in an additional activity, maybe something art related, so she can have her own "thing".


I don't know- the logistics are something I need to figure out.. but how do I address the issue with my 4 year old?  Other advice?  

Me (27) DW (28) DD1 (9) DD2 (7) DD 3 (4)
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#2 of 4 Old 10-19-2012, 11:55 PM
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Is there another time for the 'beginner' class you can put the 3 yr old in?  So the kids are in the same level but at different times?  yes you would be making 2 trips to the gym but the kids would each have separate class time.  If there isn't a different class time then honestly, this is just one of 'those things' that kids need to learn to deal with.  Not everyone is good at every thing.  Kiddo 2 is better at gym class, Kiddo 1 is better at art.  What happens when Kiddo 1 is entered in an art contest and kiddo 2 isn't?.  What happens when Kiddo 3 has a talent that neither kiddo 1 nor kiddo 2 has?  Kids develop at different rates, kids move at different speeds,  There is going to be a point when its just not safe for kiddo 2 to stay at the lower level.  Move each child as they progress.


If kiddo 1 wants to take an art class then add art to her schedule.  If kiddo 2 wants additional sports type classes then add those.  However, for this particular issue I would take lead from the coaching staff.  Worry about what happens at age 6 when you get there. Right now you only need to work with kiddo 2.  (For all you know there is an adaptive PE class somewhere your kiddo 1 can move into)

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#3 of 4 Old 10-20-2012, 05:38 AM
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This is really something that most parents deal with at one point or another. From that perspective, I would encourage each of your girls to continue working to their abilities. Regardless of what activity it is. If your oldest ages out of the Beginner class and they wont move her on, consider a different physical activity or gym. (Perhaps a martial art might be an option?)


I would definitely look for an art class, if she's interested and you can manage it. But I would likely stress to your younger daughter that not everything is a competition. Art is about creativity, not competition. And copying... is not creative. Encourage her to come up with her own ideas - if she is interested - rather than copying her sister's work.




My two are roughly the same age spread. My older has always sucked up information w/no effort, regardless of the subject, was able to put ideas and concepts together easily. But when it came to sports or other physical activity? It was very frustrating - he simply wasn't good at it. My younger? Has always had to really work hard to absorb information, then figure out how to apply it, etc. But has a physical grace on any sports field that can take your breath away. It frustrated her brother to no end that his friends preferred his two-year younger sister on their team. Just as it frustrated her that he didn't have to spend any time at all to understand academic concepts.


I always stressed to them that they were individuals, and everyone can't be good at everything. When she had a problem with schoolwork, he was her go-to for help. MUCH more patient than I could be at the time, and more tuned in to how things were being taught. She helped him with athletic/physical stuff by asking him to throw or kick a ball around with her.


So yeah - encourage your girls to help one another improve as they can....

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#4 of 4 Old 10-20-2012, 01:41 PM
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I have a similar situation because my older DD has some special needs, and my younger DD is a little rock start at pretty much everything. They are less than 2 years apart.


We do stress that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and that we all have things we have to work at, even mommy and daddy. We value working at things and trying and doing our best.


With my kids, I was able to keep some of the specifics about each other a bit of a secret until they were a bit older and better able to talk about and understand. What I would do in your gymnastic case, is put them in separate classes (even if it is the same class but at different times) because it will make it less obvious when your younger DD get promoted and your older DD does not.


I know from your previous post that your older DD has some things in common with my older DD, and gymnastic class was AMAZING for her -- better than therapy, even though she never progressed. The experience of doing it every week was great. I also found "older beginner" classes that she could take when she aged out of the preschool classes, and she didn't give it up until she was 12. We downplayed the differences and celebrated having fun at class and doing our best.


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