Stop comparing your kid to others

Don't compare your kid to others
I jinxed myself, again. Just as I was writing about how my toddler’s tantrums don’t seem as terrible as in the past, he threw an all-out, can’t-catch-my-breath tantrum in what should have been a fun Saturday at a children’s birthday party. We had to listen to him cry the whole ride home—through traffic, of course—before he eventually calmed down.

All the while, I couldn’t help but think back to the birthday party where I saw his two-year-old cousin (the birthday celebrant) laughing with the family, sharing his toys and accepting gifts from his guests like a gracious host. And here was my toddler, ready to cry if I even so much as got up to grab a cup of water. And sadly I couldn’t help but compare their two very different dispositions.

The close proximity in their ages don’t make comparisons any easier. Only seven months apart, comparisons are bound to happen, whether one likes to dance, the other likes to fiddle with gadgets, and who got their teeth/started to walk/ate solids at what age.

If seven months seem short, one of my friends has a son who is just two weeks younger than my toddler, so you can imagine the comparisons running through my head: “How come LO isn’t into cars and bikes like L?” “L can already jump and is potty trained.” And so forth.

It’s so easy to compare. We compare whether our kids are into the same hobbies as others, what skills other kids have mastered that ours still haven’t (and vice versa), and we even compare their personalities. When I find myself comparing my little guy to others, I remind myself not to do so in a way that would make me doubt his own pace and abilities, because:

  • Every child has his own interests: Just as we adults have our own hobbies and pastimes, so do our kids. Children differ in their interests and will therefore expend effort on those that they enjoy.
  • Every child has his own skills: It’s so easy to forget our kids’ own amazing skills when we compare their shortcomings to others.
  • Every child has his own personality: While I absolutely love my toddler’s personality—his inquisitiveness, quick mind, humor and playfulness—one of the issues I grapple with is his fiery (and loud) temperament. Accepting kids for who they are rather than comparing their temperaments is key.
  • Every child develops at his own pace: While my toddler started walking early at 10 months, he was 21 months before he finally spoke his first words. As SSBE reader Tragic Sandwich wrote in a comment a few weeks ago:

There is a really wide range of normal, and all the weird stuff your baby is going to do fits right in the middle of that range.

Rather than comparing kids only to feel like we’ve failed, maybe we can use comparisons as a way to introduce new skills and interests. For instance, I recently read on a blog about a mom who showed her toddler how to slice a banana. I had never considered this skill, but rather than pressuring my toddler to slice every bunch of banana or worry whether he’s set back because he has yet to slice his own food, I found a plastic knife and showed him how fun slicing one of his favorite fruits can be.

I took the same approach when I heard that one of his playmates can remove his own shoes. Rather than sulk about my toddler’s inability to do the same or push him to perfect this skill in a day, I gradually introduced and practiced with him on how to remove his shoes. So yes, we can notice what other kids are doing and even introduce some of those skills to our kids, but try not to worry or fuss if they don’t catch on right away or have no interest.

Even though my toddler threw a tantrum in front of my husband’s family while his little cousin smiled sweetly and happily, I also have to assume that every parent, no matter the child’s temperament, has dealt with his or her own versions of the worst-tantrum-ever. In the moment, tantrums are embarrassing and draining, but in hindsight, I’m willing to bet that even my toddler’s sweet cousin has had his terrible days as well.

And even if his cousin’s tantrums are nowhere near the caliber my little guy can throw, accepting my toddler for everything that he is will serve us much better and lead to fewer comparisons. Tantrums are terrible, but I can’t imagine trading my toddler’s personality for anyone else.

And his shoes? He can now remove them all on his own.

How do you keep yourself from comparing your kids to others? Have you used comparisons in a positive way, e.g. as a way to introduce new skills?

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21 thoughts on “Stop comparing your kid to others

  1. Great post and love the bit at the end. It’s so true that no matter how tying they can be at times, you wouldn’t trade them for anyone else in the world! 🙂

  2. I can understand the tendency to compare. My son has a cousin who is only 8 months older, and it bothered me for the longest time that my son refused (and still refuses) to kiss anyone and his cousin was freely giving kisses at 5 months old. But it’s silly to worry about because Lane gives wonderful hugs, and even though he doesn’t grasp the concept of a kiss, he is still a very loving boy.

    I like how you’ve pointed out how we can use these comparisons, not to fret about our children, but as a way to introduce them to new things. Can’t wait to try cutting the banana with my baby boy! 🙂

  3. Love this. I think we are all guilty of this – well most of us anyway, I know I certainly am. Some of my friends’ kids were walking at 10 months and talking before they turned one and I have to keep reminding myself that Mushroom can do things they can’t (or don’t want to) and celebrate these. One of these is actually removing his own shoes. He’s been doing this for ages, and does it in the supermarket, in the road… I used to find it quite annoying but you have made me see it in a new way – as a skill he acquired quite early on. So thank you!

    • Rachael, that’s awesome! From someone whose kid didn’t take to removing his own shoes early on, you’re right I never thought of it as annoying but instead a skill. What you said makes me wonder if some of his “annoying” quirks would be considered a skill other parents might even envy, hehe. Funny how the grass is always greener 😉

  4. Another great post and so important. Kids simply develop at different rates and have different skills.
    I made the mistake of comparing Livi to others early on, when she was always crying and other babies were sitting smiling or sleeping in their swings.
    I have come to believe that comparing your baby or toddler to others can be especially detrimental when your child has high needs. Detrimental to your own sanity as well as your relationship to your child.
    By the way, the temperament you describe will come in handy when he grows up. Many headstrong children end up determined adults who aren’t push overs, maybe even leaders, and who work for what they believe in. Great qualities if you ask me. 🙂

    • Great point! I tend to look at my kiddo’s temperament as a positive precisely for what you mentioned. Not that my toddler pushes other kids around (quite the opposite actually) but I’d like him to be able to stand up for what’s important to him.

  5. The title of your post drew me in…so easy, logical…and HARD! I have used comparisons in positive ways like you mentioned–introducing a new skill, allowing my little guy to do more things himself, and so on. BUT it’s tough when potty training isn’t going well, sleeping isn’t going well–you get the idea. I appreciate the other comments highlighting the positives in attributes that don’t always seem that way!

    • Welcome, Lynda!

      I agree; often these comparisons arise when things don’t go so well. Sometimes it’s those times that I even exaggerate: “My little guy doesn’t seem as friendly as cousin.” Never mind that just a few days ago he was hugging and kissing everyone at a family party.

      I’m not looking forward to potty training; I’ll do my best to keep these comparisons in check!

  6. I like your point about not comparing personalities. Our daughter is naturally very energetic and it can be easy to compare her to other kids who have less energy and therefore tend to get into less stuff.

  7. Funny, that’s more or less what I’ve been thinking about lately as well. Our little guy is rather quiet and reserved so while other kids are playing together enthusiastically, he’ll be sitting quietly by himself building with blocks or just watching. I find that I’m ok with it myself but I sometimes catch myself worrying what other parents will think…even though the times anyone has said anything are usually other parents thinking he’s somehow “ahead” of their kids because he will sit and play quietly by himself. Isn’t it funny how we all have a tendency to look at another kid and think they are ahead somehow? And why should I care what another parent thinks???

  8. I read a great blog post recently by a mother who said she now regretted how she had always pushed her baby/toddler/preschooler to the next stage or to be the first to walk or run or ride a bike while her
    friend had been more relaxed. Whatever your little one is doing now is a precious time that you’ll never get back so enjoy and jot it all down in your baby book and blog! As for the tantrums? That is a stage too and it will pass.

  9. It’s hard to NOT compare your child in regards to milestones. I’ve gotten better (meaning less stressed about it) if Oster isn’t hitting a mark just yet. Examples: at 13 months, he only has four teeth. He still takes his morning and afternoon naps. He prefers to crawl instead of walk.

    I know he’ll do what he needs to when he’s ready. What’s nice about being around other children his age is that I can see what others are doing AND get ideas (like you did with the shoes). Sometimes I get more confident with a situation if I see another mom do something.

    I don’t want my son to grow up too fast. I really want to enjoy him. That doesn’t mean I am going to hold him back. I will support him and “push” him if needed. Right now, he’s at his own pace and enjoying life.

    I’m happy to observe and learn from others to help my child grow.

  10. Pingback: A Different Kind Of Normal « The High Need Baby Blog

  11. Pingback: Annoying achievements « Mothering Mushroom

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