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Seeing Each Child as an Individual
If you assess the way your child is developing by comparing him (or her) to other children, you may be burdening him with self-esteem issues that carry over to both his teen and adult years.
While comparing the progress and success of peers is a standard practice in our society, it can be very damaging to young people. This is because of the essential developmental milestones that occur during childhood. It’s vital to recognize that children don’t all develop at the same pace, and feelings of inadequacy may only make their developmental progress harder to monitor. Here are some of the reasons why.
Your Child May Resent You
Being compared to their classmates or siblings can make your child feel resentful toward you. The pressure to meet your expectations can lead to feelings of anxiousness or sadness. They’ll feel like you’re unhappy with them and try to distance themselves from the source that is the cause of their discomfort. This can lead to a child who no longer trusts you enough to seek your help or guidance on the unfamiliar subject matter.
It’s not uncommon for memories of our childhood to resurface in our adult lives and affect us in some way. This is especially true if the memory often occurred during childhood.
Events that have a strong negative impact on your child could lead to issues with self-worth or self-esteem later in life. And, while you didn’t intend for your words to be hurtful, your child may not understand it at the time and only remember it as a painful memory.
While giving praise to children is encouraged, it can do more harm than good if it’s implemented negatively. Telling your child that they are better than their siblings or peers can lead to feelings of superiority to those around them.
It also teaches that it’s ok to put down others to feel good about yourself. Of course, it’s important to give praise for accomplishments. But, it’s best to do so in a way that paints them “good at something” rather than “better than others at something.” Essentially, you will praise the effort, not the act or “gift.”
How to Stop Comparing
It’s never a wise idea to compare your child to others. Whether or not their test scores in a particular class are higher than everyone else’s, the important thing to do is to show appreciation for the effort your child makes. Help them set realistic goals for improving their own abilities and encourage them to ask you for help if they need it. Above all, be sure your child knows that your approval does not depend on how popular or outgoing they are. Support them at all times and let them know that you’ll be there for them regardless.
Taking steps to treat your child as an individual allows him to effectively develop into his unique self, rather than a person he’s pressured into becoming. For example, he may have potential in music class, but never develop the talent because he feels compelled to play sports instead.
Remember, the goal is to treat your child like a strong individual, so he or she will grow up to be a healthy and appreciative adult.