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Published on March 31, 2014

Dangers in Comparison

Dr. Mom & psychiatrist Bhawani Ballamudi explains why comparing your child to others can be both unhealthy and unproductive

Do you ever find yourself comparing your child's behavior or progress with other children? If so, you are causing stress for yourself and your child. Comparing your child with others is ultimately unhealthy and unproductive. We all know it's hard to resist, as we tend to assess our progress in any area of life by checking out how we compare with our peers.

 Some comparison is normal and healthy as we try to understand the expectations our kids need to meet at school and in the community.  We want to be able to recognize areas of strength and weakness for our kids with the intention of channeling their strengths and improving their struggles .  This is okay, as long as we don't lose sight of three important aspects.

  1. Kids develop at different rates. There are early developers, slow bloomers and steady-as-you-go kids in every group, so comparing your child's results or performance can be completely unrealistic. What this means is: Focus on your child's improvement and effort and use your child's results as the benchmark for his or her progress and development. "Your spelling is better today than it was a few days, weeks or months ago."
  2. Kids have different talents, interests and strengths. Okay, your eight-year-old may not be able to kick the ball as good as your neighbor's child can. Avoid comparing the two as your child may not like soccer as much or he is already trying the best he can. What this means for you: Help your child identify his or her own talents and interests. Recognize that his or her strengths and interests may be completely different to those of his or her peers and siblings.
  3. Parents can have unrealistic expectations for their kids. We all have hopes and dreams for our kids, but they may not be in line with their interests and talents. What this means for you as a parent: Keep your expectations for success in line with their abilities and interests. If expectations are too high, kids will give up. If they are too low, they will usually get bored and the triumph loses its significance. Keep it right to each kid’s ability and talent.  Parents should take pride in their children's performance at school, sport or leisure activities. You should also celebrate their achievements and milestones, such as taking their first steps, scoring their first goal in a game or getting great marks at school.

You should be careful not have too much personal stake in your children's success or in their milestones, as this close association makes it hard to separate yourself from your kids.  By comparing kids you can put pressure on yourself and them to perform for the wrong reasons. And certainly, your self-esteem as a parent should not be explicitly linked to your children's behavior or successes.  It’s not easy and doing so takes a lot of work and discipline, but it creates the absolute foundation of that powerful thing known as unconditional love that we as parents strive to achieve with our children.

Every child is like a butterfly in the wind
Some can fly higher than others
But each one flies the best it can
Why compare one against the other?
Each one is different
Each one is special
Each one is beautiful!!

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