“Comparison is the thief of joy” – Teddy Roosevelt.
We compare things every day, sometimes consciously and sometimes not. I compare my outfits against one another for example, or books, restaurants and fitness plans. I do this because I want to make the best choices for myself and my family and there’s nothing better than trying something out for yourself to see if it works or doesn’t work for you, and then possibly moving onto the next best thing. The act of comparing is a natural human behaviour and I’m not afraid to admit to it. The problem arises when it comes to comparing people. People, especially children, are much more complicated than say, a book. So comparing my child against yours, or vice versa is actually ridiculous. It fuels unnecessary worry, judgment, and unhealthy competitiveness in both parents and children.
Don’t confuse this with healthy competition and your children’s drive to always reach for their maximum potential. I’m talking about the unhealthy competition that teaches our kids that they need to constantly measure up throughout life – that they’ll never be happy until they start making more money, have a bigger house, have the perfect body, and so on.
Comparison and Judgment
If you’re a parent, you’ve probably been asked hundreds of times when your child started to do XYZ. Like when your child started walking, talking, reading, etc. I’ve had countless conversations with other moms who quiz one another on how many words their child is saying and really on any development trick-du-jour. It’s fun to talk about these things and brag about your child every now and again. The problem arises when these conversations turn into quiet (or sometimes not so quiet) judgment or using other children as a benchmark to your own child’s successes.
With another baby on the way, I can’t help but think if I’ll end up comparing my own children in this way. The last thing I’d want to do is instigate sibling rivalry. I know it’s extremely difficult not to compare, as it is perfectly natural, but there is a fine line between comparison and judgment. When you find yourself comparing your child against another, bring awareness to that thought, take note of how you are feeling, and then let it go. Having this inner dialogue with yourself will allow you to shape, regulate and then control your response. The simple act of awareness will not only fill you with gratitude for your own child, but you might also become inspired. Without this, you cross the dangerous threshold into judgment territory.
The act of judgment separates us and creates distance from a community of parents and children that we all yearn to build. If your immediate thought is to judge and disconnect, change this behaviour and instead tell the parent/child how they inspire you. If you start transforming judgment into inspiration, this simple shift in mindset will set both you and your children up for success.
Appreciate them at this very moment
In later years, the habit of constantly comparing your child to others will breed insecurity and anxiety in the both of you. If you’re constantly comparing your child to others, think about what that is doing to their level of confidence. They will start to believe that they’re not good at XYZ and will begin to question their own self-worth. Kind of the opposite effect of what we want for our kids.
We need to learn to appreciate our children for who they are and not who you think they should become based on others’ or your own experiences. Appreciate your child at this very moment. Rather than comparing your child to another, let them use their unique virtues to inspire their own greatness.