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Why We Shouldn’t Compare Our Kids

Written by Payal Malhotra, Lipa Consul for India

Everyone hates to be compared to someone else. It hurts to be judged based on someone else’s strengths when we have our own unique traits that make us special. But when it comes to children, sometimes we forget how much comparing can hurt. Our kids undergo the same adverse effects of low self-confidence, questioning their identity, and their worth. The only things comparing seems to accomplish is instigating competition between children, so that they try to perform or behave better. But we tend to forget that no two individuals are the same they have their different talents, interests, strengths and weaknesses and different rates of development.

Back then, it was worse

I still remember when I was a child in India, becoming a doctor or an engineer were the two fields considered as a benchmark for measuring your intelligence and success. Many of us were compared to our siblings, friends, or cousins who had succeeded their careers. If someone couldn’t secure a seat in these fields, they were left with the feeling that they were inferior. Hardly any children were encouraged to become dancers or painters – because of the push for doctors and engineers, many great talents were brushed away and neglected.


We still make the same mistakes

The scenario has changed over the years, but academic success still plays a very important role. We still tend to pressure our kids to keep up a brilliant academic record, and often we compare kids to those who are getting better grades. But we should encourage kids to do their best, and not make that a reason for their success or failure.

Maybe my friend’s son has won gold medals in swimming, but that doesn’t mean that my daughter should do the same. My daughter might become a good dancer who can steal the show at any get-together. So instead of forcing my daughter to be a swimmer, I should rather encourage her to excel in her interests and utilize her social development in a positive manner.


Why exactly is comparing so bad?

If you’re wondering what makes comparison so terrible, here are a few negative effects that can leave a lasting impression on your children:

1. Comparison leads to low self-esteem and self-confidence. Children feel incapable and wonder why they are not able to perform well like the kids they are compared to.

2. Kids begin to foster sibling rivalry and distance themselves from you. A constant comparison to a sibling, especially one considered more successful, leads to anger and hatred towards that sibling. As our comparison of the child also hurts his/her feelings, they tend to avoid us and maintain a distance to avoid being hurt.

3. Kids begin to shy away from others. As kids fear being compared to others in social gatherings, they tend to stay away and become more reclusive.


What should you do instead of comparing?

Since our aim is give our kids the best life we can, instead of focusing on what our child cannot do, we should focus on what they can do. We should follow a positive approach.

1. Compare your child’s performances with their own previous performances. Appreciate any progress they’ve made in their own performances or behavior, without comparing them to others. When they see themselves as the only challenge, they become motivated.

2. Praise your kids for their strengths. Avoid scolding them for their weaknesses – we all have weaknesses, even adults. Provide kids the support they need in coping with weaknesses while motivating them to pursue their strengths.


Encouragement goes a long way

We desire the best for our kids. It’s ok to push them to do better, and sometimes to instigate some healthy competition, but we should be wary of crossing the line and hurting their self-confidence. Every child has strengths – you may have to look a little deeper, but you will find them. Let’s help our kids recognize why they are special and unique, and encourage them to challenge themselves and be better people overall.


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