Ask Dr. Dobson by Dr. Dobson

       Question: My older child earns straight A's year after year. Her younger sister is completely bored in school and won't even try. The frustrating thing is that the younger girl is probably brighter than her older sister. Why would she refuse to apply her ability like this?

       Answer: There could be many reasons for her academic uninterest, but let me suggest the most probable explanation. Children will often refuse to compete when they think they are likely to place second instead of first. Therefore, a younger child may avoid challenging an older sibling in his area of greatest strength. If Son No. 1 is a great athlete, then No. 2 may be more interested in collecting butterflies. If Daughter No. 1 is an accomplished pianist, then Daughter No. 2 may be a boy-crazy goof-off.

       This rule depends, of course, on the child's fear of failure and the way he estimates his chances of successful competition. If his confidence is high, he may wade into the territory owned by big brother, determined to do even better. However, the more typical response is to seek new areas of compensation that are not yet dominated by a family superstar.

       If this explanation fits your younger daughter's behavior, then it would be wise to accept something less than perfection from her school performance. Every child need not fit the same mold-nor can we force them to do so.