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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 100?'

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 with ME?'

"Comparing your child with others is a stress-inducing and, ultimately, useless activity."

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 love'.



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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. Get your FREE Chores and Responsibilities for Kids Guide when you visit http://www.parentingideas.com.au.



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