Have you ever compared your child to another child? I’m sure you did. Even if you were just checking some age milestones to pass, you were comparing your kid to what´s expected in his or her age development.
But how about comparing your child to some friend´s child, have you done that? You probably did, and that’s normal for all parents to do, I say it’s unavoidable. Even if it´s just in your mind, you might think, “Oh that kid is potty trained already and mine keeps on diapers till now…”
While you are only thinking about it and not saying anything to your child, that’s ok, it´s a way to keep track on the developments achieved. Specifically if you are analyzing your kids´ body development. I mean, it’s ok to expect your child stop wetting the bed, start taking a shower on her own and etc. The problem is when you compare your child to another child in a behavior way and that can be really toxic to a little mind.
Unfortunately we do it all the time. We are constantly poisoning our kid’s minds with our comparisons. I have all this in mind and I keep telling my daughter how her friend ate the salad and she didn’t or how her friend is ready to leave while she still has to put her clothes on and so on. So what I´m doing is telling her that her friend is behaving better than she is and with this I create a pattern for her to follow. I´m setting a path for her that says: “you do things worse (or slower or less effective…) than your friend”.
This is what parents do when they compare siblings, for instance. They say to one kid: “why don´t you play more soccer like your brother, look, he is getting coached at school already”, or “why are you so shy, your brother has no problems talking to new people at parties”. Whatever the comparison is, you are setting your child into an expected behavior.
Stopping comparisons is the way to start
The kid that doesn’t play soccer like his brother starts to assume he is not as good and the shy kid starts to assume that he can´t become outgoing like the brother, internalizing these judgments like a reality. Any child goes through different kinds of phases that might be temporary and might stick forever depending on the external input they receive.
We are all molded by the stimuli that we get. Human nature is about all human beings having the tools to develop anything humanly possible. Even a genius mind can be trained from childhood, by getting this child a proper training in a field the she loves.
Chess grandmaster Susan Polgar is an example of this. Her father Lázló Polgar, a psychologist, decided to experiment on his daughter what he had studied for several years. He believed that genius is equal work and fortunate circumstances, he thought that the potential of children is not usually being used optimally.
He helped his daughter develop the skills to become a chess grandmaster and later he did the same with her two sisters. Susan now has a mission to bring chess popularity among schools, specially for girls. Well, her story is so amazing I could write on and on, but if you are interested, I suggest you check her web site.
Now, back to her father, I´m sure he was never comparing his daughters like “Your sister is the best chess player and you´d better try to work like she did”, that kind of statement could have undermined the sister´s self esteem for good. But instead he was pushing each daughter to their individual limit.
Lázló Polgar was a trained psychologist. Regular parents lack on knowledge to better educate their children. Even worse, regular parents are full of misconceptions on raising kids and very often they are damaging their kid’s brain, personality and self esteem for ever.
I haven’t had any training on how to better educate children and that’s why I am constantly seeking for the best sources, the knowledge that is available and how to change my ignorant behavior to create a good environment around my daughter.
Like most parents around, I do stupid things like compare Luísa to other kids now and then, but I am increasingly quitting these bad habits of mine and I want you to do the same. I want us all to raise our kids with less prejudice against other people and against their selves.
Let´s be alert to these things that might look insignificant like saying “Sweety, can´t you eat your vegetables like your sister?” but are huge blocks on the long term, for they are contributing to create one´s awareness of his own self.
Let´s help our children be unique by respecting their individuality. Let´s let them shine in their own unique way.