Articles and Topics
Encouraging siblings to reach their individual potentials.
Q: I'm wondering how to encourage my 2½-year-old to continue to advance without putting down my 4½-year-old. Both of them started out very similar, speaking in sentences by their first birthday, writing their names, knowing alphabets, colours and counting to 20 by 1½. My oldest had a seizure at 19 months after getting his 18-month shots, and is just now re-learning that there are more letters in the alphabet than “E” for Ethan. Meanwhile, the 2½-year-old is beginning to read noticeably now. Ethan is beginning to realise this and is getting frustrated because he knows he is behind his brother. I try to tell him it is okay, that we can learn it together and that none of his friends can read yet, either. The problem is I know and think he knows, too, that he could have been reading if it weren’t for the doctors ignoring the contraindications saying he shouldn't have had his shots. I plan to home school my kids, and want to be able to make the older one feel better so he doesn't just give up.
A: Your letter is very touching, and your question is difficult to answer. With two obviously very bright sons, it is perhaps inevitable that you would be very concerned with their cognitive development. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you it is unusual for children to be able to count at 18 months. But perhaps the focus on such achievements is too intense in your family. Ethan might not be so frustrated if you put less emphasis on early reading with both boys. Whatever happened to Ethan at 19 months probably affected his motor and muscular development also. By finding enjoyable ways to help him with balance and coordination, you might be helping him more than by trying to teach him to read. Since you plan to home school, it should be possible for you plan the teaching activities for Ethan at a pace and a level that will not result in a sense of failure for him. Good luck. And perhaps with time—and plenty of love and support from his family and help from appropriate professionals—he will regain some of the potential he appears at this time to have lost.