How Much Do You Compare & Compete With Other Parents?
By Michael Grose
Do you ever compare your child's behaviour or progress with other
children of the same age?
It's tempting to use other children's development as benchmarks for your
own children's development.
For instance, you may notice that your friends' five year old can count
to 100 easily, while your own five year old struggles to count to 10.
It's easy to think, 'What's wrong with my son? Why can't he count to
It's also tempting to use other children's behaviour as benchmarks for
your own child's behaviour.
For example, you may notice your friend's daughter just loves to sit and
chat after school, while your child just wants to sit in front of the TV
when she gets home. It's easy to think, 'What's wrong with my daughter?
Why doesn't she want to sit with me and talk about school? What's wrong
"Comparing your child with others is a stress-inducing and, ultimately,
BUT it's a natural thing to do.
We assess our progress in any area of life by checking out how we
compare with our peers.
When we were kids in school we compared ourselves to our schoolmates. We
knew the academic hierarchy our classroom. Our teachers may not have
graded us, but we knew who the smart kids were and where we ranked in
the order of things.
As parents we still keep eye on our peers. We use the progress and
behaviour of their kids as benchmarks to help us assess our own
performance as well as our kids' progress. This is okay, as long as we
don't lose sight of three important aspects:
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 for you: Compare your child with his own performances and
development only. Improvement and effort become your focus and your
child's results become the benchmark for progress and development.
Kids have different talents, interests and strengths. Okay, your
eight-year-old may not be able to hit a tennis ball like Rafa, even
though your neighbour's child can. Avoid comparing the two kids as your
child probably doesn't give a toss about tennis anyway. What this means
for you: Help your child identify his or her talents and interests and
focus on these only. Recognise that strengths and interests may be
completely different than those of his or her peers and siblings.
Parents can have unrealistic expectations for their kids. We all
have hopes and dreams for our kids but these can sometimes not
be in line with their interests and talents. What this means for you:
Keep your expectations for success in line with their abilities (and not
those of your friend's kids) and interests. If expectations are too high
kids will give up. If they are too low, kids will usually meet them!!!
All parents should take pride on their children's performance at school,
in sport or their leisure activities. You should also celebrate their
achievements and milestones such as, taking their first steps, getting
their first goal in a game or getting great marks at school.
"BUT you shouldn't 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. It also leads you to play the
"compare & compete game" - i.e. 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 behaviour or developmental levels.
"Quite simply, some kids are more difficult than others....so
it takes a bold parent to hoist their self-esteem sail to the
developmental or behavioural mast of their child."
"You are not your child" is a challenging but essential parental concept
to live by. Doing so takes real maturity and altruism, but it is the
absolute foundation of that powerful thing known as 'unconditional
Michael Grose is Australia's NO. 1 parenting expert. He is the director
of Parenting Ideas, the author of seven books for parents and a popular
presenter who speaks to audiences in Australia, Singapore and the USA.
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