Posted February 6th, 2013 | Dinner Discussion, Spicing Up Married Life

Competitive Family Members

I’m writing this E-mail Blast immediately after the Super Bowl and the Raven’s victory.
(At the Raven’s Stadium for Fund Raising Event 2011)

While John’s team won, the Harbaugh Family is the true winner.  The intense pressures of raising a family are magnified by competition.  To have two sons compete for the title of Super Bowl World Championship and stay brotherly is a miraculous accomplishment of great parenting and a strong family.

In the culinary world, I remember a similar competition between the two Voltaggio Brothers for the title of Top Chef.  I was fortunately invited to the screening party for the final episode.  And while Bryan Voltaggio didn’t win, I sensed in him a feeling of victory as his brother Michael claimed the prize.

(Top Chef runner-up, Bryan Voltaggio at his after-party.)


The Voltaggio mother was credited by both sons as the reason for their skill and drive.  They saw in her a good example and both wanted to do her proud – no doubt this is the same motivation for the two Harbaugh brothers.  Their accomplishments are a testament to the drive, discipline, determination, and the equal love Mr. and Mrs. Harbaugh have for both of their sons.       

While raising a family is difficult, relationships can get more complicated if and when a child feels like they are not loved “as much” as a sibling.  Sibling rivalry is bound to happen at some level of family life.  Consider Jacob and Esau’s sense of competition, or the rivalry amongst the disciples, as seen in Mathew 18:1 when they asked who would be the “greatest” in Heaven.  But a rivalry doesn’t have to ruin a family.

There may be days when one sibling acts more lovable than the other, but parents have a great responsibility to raise each child with the same amount of love – even if it requires that one child occasionally gets a little more attention (or discipline) than the other.

(Some of my nieces and nephews. While they certainly compete, they also do what they can to build each other up.)
Competition in the case of the Harbaugh’s or Voltaggio’s is taken to a whole new level. But the classiness of the people who raised them can become a great example for all parents and all children – especially if the siblings can get through the competition without destroying their family love for one another.      

Even though I joke around that my parents love me best (I’m the priest for goodness sake haha), I know my parents love all their children equally.  Similar to how God treats His children, parents have to see each child as an individual, recognizing different temperaments while making sure there are concrete signs of equal love to each child in the family.


(One of my many family gatherings.)


Here are some tips to help parents that may have to deal with competitive kids:

  1. Pray for each one of them with an individual prayer.
  2. Create a list of each of your children’s strengths and weaknesses in character.  This will help you and your spouse determine discipline and praise for that specific child.
  3. Try not to compare one child with the other.  For example, it is less helpful to say “You should be more like your brother or sister.”  That kind of language can be discouraging, as each child is different.  Instead say things like, “how can you behave better so that I don’t get as angry with you?”  Or, “what actions can you take so that you get into less trouble?”  This will respect their individuality and help them to be their best version of themselves.
  4. Make equal time for one-on-one relationship building opportunities. In other words, while it’s important for the family to do things together, I see wisdom in a parent spending equal quality time with each child.
  5. Encourage your children to share good qualities about their siblings on a regular basis.  Whether it’s during Grace Before Meals or in private conversations, it’s important for families to be proactive in encouraging one another.

Raising a family is hard. It gets even more complicated when the children become competitive.  Disordered competitiveness breeds jealousy, unhealthy rivalry, and can tear the family apart. Parents will sometimes need some life coaching to help them get through unique difficult situations, but it is important to remember that children are not only competing with one another, but they’re also competing for the greatest victory of all:  your love for them.



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Me on the field at M&T Bank Stadium

FYI: On my weekly radio show, “Entertaining Truth” each Thursday at 1:00pm EST on the Catholic Channel, Sirius XM 129, me and my co-host Tom Leopold will develop this discussion even more.  We will also try to give people a perspective on how to approach their post Super Bowl Blues or Rejoicing!

At the Sirius XM Studios in NYC

Finally, Valentine’s Day is only one week away.  Order your copy of Spicing Up Married Life as a perfect gift for you and your spouse.  Enter the promo code VDAY13 for your purchase and receive a special 10% discount.  Order by February 11, 2013 and receive it in time for Valentine’s Day. 


When you make a purchase with that code and respond to the questions below, your order automatically enters you into a drawing for a special gift from me, including a signed copy of Spicing Up Married Life, a bottle of wine, paired with one of my recipes from the book, ingredients provided. So leave your comments HERE!

  1. How do you handle sibling rivalry in your family?
  2. Have you seen how unhealthy competition destroys family?
  3. Who were you rooting for this in this past Super Bowl and why?
  4. How would you handle the pressure if you were the parents of the two competing sons and coaches?
Let us pray:  
Father, may competition bring out the best in us.  May we learn how to deal well in our relationships so that, imitating Your equal love for all, we may help Your children to be raised with a great sense of love, kindness for each other, and true family support.  May families be victorious in that they remain close to each other in good times and in bad, and even in the wins and losses.  God bless the Harbaugh family!  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen!


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Posted in Dinner Discussion, Spicing Up Married Life | 5 Comments