With more than one kid, parenting is no cakewalk.  Not only do you have twice (or triple, or quadruple, or…) the responsibilities, but you’ve got to navigate how to be fair, how to give the right kind of attention, and enough attention.  It can feel fraught with landmines.


Here are five tips for parenting your sailing siblings:

  • Remember they have similar genetics but they are different people. They are going to learn at different paces, and will have different strengths and weaknesses.  One will succeed while the other fails, and vice versa.  Of course you want them to both succeed, but it’s okay when they don’t.
  • Be natural and considerate. They will compare themselves to each other, even if you never do.  You don’t need to walk on eggshells about it.  If you’re watching races, be sure to tune into both their races without judging or coaching either.  On those days when one succeeds, acknowledge success!  Either way, when one fails, start with open-ended questions and acknowledge/ validate feelings of disappointment.  Don’t bother trying to help them make it instantly better.
  • Don’t umpire unless you have to. They may have rivalries in practice, or on the race course.  Rivalries aren’t necessarily toxic; it may help them both reach new heights.  Celebrate this unique opportunity.  How many people get to sail against their sibling?!  But in the tense moments, you don’t necessarily have to be the umpire.  A lot can be learned from muddling through it.
  • Give them strategies to handle conflict. They may need some coaching from you, or from a mental performance coach like me (allowing you to step out of the triangle).  Being aware of patterns in the family can help with strategies for making things better.  For instance, one might see herself as the aggressive one, while the other sees himself as the passive one.  Empower them both by reinforcing cooperative/assertive behaviors.
  • Give yourself permission to not be perfect. You will have times when you get it wrong.  That’s okay!  Model how to own it, being transparent that perhaps you did play favorites, or you weren’t as considerate as you’d like to be.  And keep working to do it better next time.


Your kids’ sailing skills take time to develop and improve through a never-ending process.  Likewise, our parenting skills are constantly improving and evolving.  More than one kid means even more practice in even more nuanced situations.  Embrace your own learning!

Tim Herzog trains sailors and other athletes to consistently be on top of their mental game. He has been a college sailing coach at Kings Point and Boston College, and now is a mental performance coach at Reaching Ahead Counseling and Mental Performance (reachingahead.com). Look for more of his wisdom in future issues of OptiNews.