Compare Your Child.com
I think, if this website existed and everyone was honest about it- we would probably use it. Imagine if we could see children of similar age and what they were/ were not doing and what size they were and looked like and then compare to our own. Oh wait- instagram. Go compare, go compare, when in doubt seek them out and go compare- I think a famous opera singer sung that maybe.
Comparing is defined as: to note or measure the similarities or dissimilarity between something. It is natural to do this. It is natural to worry about the development of your child and if they are hitting those important milestones. Comparing to others is a sure fire way to either ease your mind or make you worry more. And we shouldn’t really do it. We all know we shouldn’t, but we still do.
I’m writing this while at soft play and when I came in a lady asked me how old Eden was. I said three. She replied “oh Noah is so small- he is 4.” I saw her comparing their statures. I’ve done this myself, but thinking about it- how silly is that. Did I walk into the soft play and ask someone how old they were and worry that they were taller than me? Most people are taller than me. Everyone is different shapes and sizes and abilities. As adults we seem to know that and accept it. With our children? We don’t always give them this obvious grace.
Comparing one child to another is fundamentally flawed. Just because two children are the same age- there is not a chance they will be the same in any other way. There will always be differences. Some big differences and some smaller ones. A one year old might be walking and another might only just be crawling. Comparing their abilities at such a young age- or any age for that matter- is pretty unreasonable if you ask me. But I’ve done it. Of course I have. Imagine only being on this planet 12 months and trying to find your feet (literally) and getting compared to everyone else who arrived on this planet at the same time. If a group of people moved to a far away land together- some would adjust quicker than others, some would want to go back inside the womb- think I may have mixed my metaphors there but you get my drift.
We compare our children constantly because we need the validation we are doing ok. Being a parent doesn’t often get much praise. There isn’t an annual appraisal where you can break down how well you are doing and set some targets for next year. It is so intangible how well your child is doing- especially younger ones. Comparing is one way to see how you are fairing. How you are measuring up. Comparing can make you feel you aren’t doing so well. I remember worrying over Edens speech as my nephew, who is very similar in age, was talking so well and clearly and Eden wasn’t. Fast forward to now and I can’t shut Eden up. This was a dangerous comparison- I remember telling my health visitor and she looked at me like I was a lunatic. She said Eden was well beyond his age for speech- but I had compared him to his cousin, as that was the only measure I had for two year old language. Comparing made me unnecessarily worry and also look like THE most pushy parent in front of the health visitor. She looked at me like I had demanded he recite Shakespeare. But I was comparing Eden to a little boy with expectational speech, as that was all I knew, and looking back now I feel out of order. He was doing so well and talking so much- but all I could think was- “not as good as Rowan”. I consider myself told off.
Parents compare because we don’t know what we are doing really. We are winging it every day. We don’t know what they should be doing, saying, looking like, acting like- even if you’ve read all the books you still won’t know. I don’t think anyone knows. Us UK parents get taught this comparison from the off set. Our babies height and weight is compared to others in our little red book. We are given a percentage of other kids that they are heavier/ taller than. No consideration to who the parents are and what their genes define- just a direct comparison to anonymous others. Is it any wonder at the baby groups that you can see the eyes of the parents sizing up the other babies? Eyes darting from their own child to another in the room, back to their own and back again to the other child. Are they rolling over yet? Do they have teeth? And that holy grail- do they sleep? If you are in this situation just know everyone in that room is at it. They might not admit it but I guarantee they are. All silently comparing. Noting the similarities and differences.
Comparing our children is dangerous. They are incomparable. Each reaching their own personal milestones, in their own personal way. Uniqueness is what sets them apart. I have compared my toddler to a stranger to try and get him to behave. Of course I have. I have coaxed and encouraged my toddler with “Look at that wonderful little boy being good -unlike you!” Thinking about this- how does that sound to an emotionally undeveloped child? His mother- the centre of his universe- is saying that a random child is better than them. This is just klaxon sounding for growing up to feel inferior to others. And I don’t really fancy my boys growing up to feel inferior to anyone. They are the centre of my universe too and I need to make sure they know that. A random boy being good for 5 minutes should not get my praise just to try and make them behave themselves. I need to find a new tactic I think. Maybe say “See that boy over there being very well behaved- I know you can do that too.” I’m not promising I’m going to be able to stick to that mid tantrum, through gritted teeth, but I’ve got it in my conscience now. If your child sees you constantly comparing them- that is teaching them that comparing to others is the only way to get validation. Shouldn’t we teach them to work on yourself and stop worrying about what others are/ are not doing? Better yourself but not be better than others.
Comparison amongst siblings can be detrimental to their relationship. I think it can cause sibling rivalry. If you say “Oh your little brother is being such a good boy sitting down and eating nicely and you are running around like a baboon”- that is pitching them against each other in the eyes of the children. One of them is doing better than the other at this task and therefore that one is favoured (this may be true!) but for a sensitive child this can be hurtful. I think this breeds competitiveness and jealousy, but I am certainly no parenting expert- it’s just my thoughts. Ive done this. Of course I have.
I have also consciously decided to stop comparing my youngest to my eldest. They are different. I want them to be different. I want to celebrate their differences. I will 100% still dress them the same though, as that is bloody cute.
We need to stop comparing our children. If you need to compare them- compare them to themselves a month ago, two months ago, a year ago. This will tell you how they are doing. There is no need to compare to others to find this validation. Get it from within. When I shared a video of my youngest saying hello on Instagram- I was inundated with messages asking me how old he was. I knew it was for the comparison. Some would have felt relieved he was older than their child so no need to worry they are not saying hello. Some would of panicked that he was younger than their child and they weren’t saying this yet. And these were just the ones that spoke to me about it- some would have watched the video and silently compared. I know this because I’ve been there. My answer to these messages? You can’t compare a sunflower to a rose. Both flowers, both beautiful, but not the same.
Will I be able to stop comparing my children to others? Probably not. Will I try? Yes.
As Mark Twain said- “Comparison is the death of Joy”.