It’s tempting, isn’t it, to compare your kids with other people’s kids?
But how helpful is it really to compare your child’s progress or behaviour against other children? Does it do your kids any good? Does it help you parent better? Should you compare your child to other people’s children? If not, how do you stop?
When I was a teacher, I often heard playground chatter about who’s the top of the class and who is struggling. The discussion wasn’t amongst children, it was amongst parents.
Parents can be very competitive when it comes to their child’s development, academic progress and talents. And who can blame them? All parents want the best from their children and it can be helpful to compare a child’s progress against their peers. Well, helpful to an extent – but mainly it will drive you bonkers.
At The Ribbon Box (sign up for our new newsletter), we reject the pressure to be the “perfect parent” and have the “perfect children”.
Read on to find out when a comparison between children is helpful, when it’s not and how to stop it from driving you up the wall.
A little healthy comparison?
We’ve all been in situations where a little comparison has helped. When you were young, the girl next to you in the Sports Day race was running jolly fast. What did you do? You found the oomph to pick up the pace. How about when you were applying for jobs and the other person beat you to it? You found out how they clinched the job, embarked on a path of self-development and hey presto, the next job was yours!
Comparison to others can be helpful when the comparison is of our own volition, is internalised and acts as an intrinsic motivator. Often, we feel so much worse when someone else overtly compares us with others – isn’t that the premise much of school bullying is based upon?
And whilst I’m not suggesting a parents’ comparison between their own child and other people’s children is a form of bullying – God, no – it can elicit similar responses in your child.
How social comparison can harm your child
By-and-large, social comparison between your child and other people’s kids isn’t helpful. Here’s why:
- Hinders your child’s confidence in social interactions – If Mum thinks Rocco is doing better in Maths than me, does Rocco think that? It’s safer to avoid Rocco on the playground…
- Can harm friendships your child has worked so hard to build – Dad said Mia got 9/10 in her spellings. I only got 4/10, does that mean Mia won’t want to be friends with me anymore?
- Suppresses your child’s talents – Mum said she’ll stop my Judo classes if I don’t move up two book bands… but I love Judo and I’m nearly on my yellow belt!
- Encourages defeatism in your child – All Dad cares about is spellings. I’m never going to be as good at Mia, so why bother?
- Causes your child (and you!) undue stress – I’m practising phonics soooo hard but Mrs Crouch still isn’t moving me up a book band! Mum’s going to cancel Judo.
- Diminishes your child’s self-esteem – Dad never says “well done” when I bring home a picture, he probably thinks I’m a rubbish drawer.
- The same issues occur when you compare siblings and comparison adds to sibling rivalry. For the sake of a peaceful home life, avoid sibling comparisons.
If you think these are exaggerated responses, they’re not. I heard variations of these scenarios from five-year-olds in my class (sadly, on a regular basis).
A small step to save your sanity
When you spend less time comparing your child to other people’s kids, you’ll feel like a better parent and your relationship with your child will develop. Ultimately, you and your child will be happier and feel more confident, as isn’t that what we want for our kids?
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