This probably doesn’t come as a surprise that so many parents out there have this general tendency to compare their kids with others to either put them on a pedestal or to make them feel inferior and less.
People compare their kids for grades, skills, talents, even physical appearances, which is really awful and shallow and backward.
At times they don’t even realize that comparing kids might actually not be in the best interest for either of them simply due to lack of awareness.
So, in this article we are gonna touch each and every aspect from why do we compare kids in the first place, what are the harmful ramifications of comparison, the solutions, to knowing whether there is a healthy way to compare.
Let’s get started.
Let The Treasure Hunt Begin
Why do we compare kids?
Well, for a variety of reasons.
#1: Kids are a reflection of their parents
Most parents are so attached to their kids that they feel this need for their kids to outperform every other person on the block. Because for them, if their kids win, they win, and consequently, if their kids lose or are lacking in something, it’s them who have to bear with it and save their face.
And since our fragile but bloated EGOs have already strangulated us without us knowing, we impulsively are always on the lookout of whether we and everyone associated with us, especially our kids, are at their best or not.
#2: Status Driven Society
It goes without saying that ours is a status-driven society and in such a society, status is what becomes the driving force of people’s life.
“Why are you not getting the bigger cheque?”, “Why are you not coming 1st in the class?”, “Why is your friend financially more successful than you?”, “Why is my neighbor’s kid more intelligent than you?” and so on.
Such comparisons always pinpoint the lack of ‘status’ in some way or the other in our kids and glorify the fact that someone else has more, so our kids also need to catch up, or they will lose the race.
As a result, when achieving materialistic results becomes the aim, we lose focus from the process, and simply want to get things done through any means possible. In such situations, the end starts justifying the means.
Treading on this path may give one the outer success he is looking for, but will never be able to achieve inner harmony and peace as there will always be someone more handsome, richer, smarter, or more intelligent around the block. So, quit running on this never-ending treadmill that will keep you restless for your entire life.
Harmful Effects of Comparison on Kids
Probably the first thing a child responds with when compared to someone else in a belittling way is some kind of frustration. It can be either active or passive, depending on the personality of the kid.
He may either verbally or physically try to express his frustration by hitting back, justifying his position, or he may passively become frustrated from the inside and start developing a kind of hatred for either the parent or for the kid he’s being compared with or both.
Frustration can quickly become the breeding ground for anger. This very frustration, when it starts palpating in ourselves, gets manifested into the universe in the form of anger. It evolves into a whole bunch of other problems later on in life which surely is detrimental for the kid’s mental health and peace.
#2: It can pretty soon turn to Depression
One of the leading causes of depression in kids is the constant struggle to keep up with his fellow peers in areas he has no interest in, just because he’s always under the spotlight and is expected to perform better than everyone.
These verbal comparisons leading to frustration, can pretty soon turn nasty and transform into a real burden for kids which might feel heavier than carrying a physical weight.
Prolonged frustration, when it doesn’t convert into anger outside, it starts taking the shape of depression inside. And when it does convert into anger on the outside, it will lead to conflicts and clashes with people who are close to you, again leading to more stress and anxiety, aggravating the depression internally. Not a good thing for a child to live with.
#3: Lack of Confidence
A kid, who has been time and time again labeled as someone who’s inferior to others or isn’t as good as others, is bound to have major insecurities about himself in life. How can a kid, who was never actually praised for what his strengths were, exuberate any kind of confidence in life?
He would always live under the umbrella of not being good enough and would judge himself all the time leading to being unsure about his actions and maybe even losing his own individuality as a result of always trying to fit in to satisfy someone else.
While it’s certainly not impossible, but really unlikely for a kid who has been taunted and had his leg pulled during his entire childhood, being ridiculed and compared, to have the kind of confidence that sweeps you off of your feet.
Such a child is gonna have self-esteem and self-worth issues, because kids need the most love during their childhood. They need to be reassured that whatever happens, someone is gonna stay with them no matter what.
And when the two closest people to that kid start comparing him and make him feel like he’s less then that’s not a very healthy stage for that kid to be in. We might never know how these situations manifest themselves when that kid grows up.
#4: Relationship Strains
What do you think is gonna happen when you keep on nagging your child and letting him know that he lacks x,y,z things, making fun of his weaknesses by comparing him with his colleagues, or simply criticizing him for the way he is? I will tell you what will happen.
Your relationship with your kid is gonna get poisoned, and you wouldn’t even know about it until it’s too late. Your kid would start resenting you at a subconscious level which would turn pretty ugly as he grows up if something is not done to rectify the situation.
Every soul wants to be accepted and loved, and if you let your narrow mindset take away that comfort from your kid, then you are bound to face the repercussions that come with it sooner than later.
#5: Even Flattering isn’t Healthy
While comparing your kids and undermining their confidence and ridiculing them is totally shameless, comparing your kids and full fledgedly flattering them and putting them on a pedestal is equally toxic for the child.
This will lead to your kid becoming overconfident and treating others with disrespect because he’d start thinking he is above others and he’d stop learning because he might think he knows it all. The day he takes his feet off of the ground, is the day he starts digging his own grave.
And when his bubble bursts one day, which it will sooner than later, it is gonna be a hell of a task for the kid to regain his self-worth back.
Appreciating your kid only when he deserves it is the way to go. Neither more nor less.
How to Deal With Comparison the Right Way?
#1: Know the Difference between Imagination and Reality
Whenever you feel like you are being bogged down by comparison, first look at the source of it. Are you feeling low and incomplete on the basis of your own imaginations or is it based upon reality?
Your own imaginations involve comparing yourself directly or indirectly from the world of social media. Whatever you see on social media, isn’t reality, it’s all virtual. The perfect bodies, the flawless faces, the exotic locations, the ideal celebrities, everything, nothing is exactly how it appears on the Internet.
Comparing yourself with your own delusional thinking is a fool’s errand and no one can possibly save you from this trap but you yourself. The moment you see this through that it’s all a game of light and shadows whatever you see on the screen, then you can rise above it.
The other type of comparison is the one that’s based on reality but is being heavily misinterpreted by you.
For instance, if your parents compare you with your siblings because your sibling is more intelligent in school, then it’s probably true to some extent. If you were also equally intelligent, or even better than him, then there wouldn’t have been any talks about comparison in the first place.
This is the real kind of comparison, but the problem is that you misinterpret it the wrong way.
#2: Do something about the Reality
When you identify the comparison that’s based on reality, then that’s where you have to correct your way of looking at it. While ideally, no comparison would have been better, but let’s just be practical, comparisons are never gonna end. That’s the harsh reality of today’s world.
You are always gonna be under the radar either by your bosses or your colleagues or your relatives or even your parents. You can’t possibly shut any of them down for good. But what you can do is take the comparison sportingly.
Let’s extend the previous example only. Say your parents compare you with your sibling and pass the judgment that you are not as intelligent as her in school. So, one way of looking at it is the way the majority will see it through.
They would simply feel their ego being bruised and now their aim would be to either beat their sibling by becoming better than her or simply limit themselves for the rest of their lives thinking that they just don’t have it in them and call it quits.
Both of these paths suck! The thing is that, if you aren’t good at studies then chances are that you don’t really like it. So, even if you beat your sibling by becoming better at something you are not into, you might temporarily get a ‘high’ but in the long run, you are gonna feel empty. And well, the other path plainly sucks. Giving up is never the solution.
So, what you should be doing is that, instead of entering into a rat race, you discover your own race where only you are gonna be the sole one running. Now’s the perfect time for you to look at what you are actually made for and dwell in making yourself amazing in whatever you are gonna discover.
It doesn’t have to be school. It can practically be anything under the Sun. You just have to be patient and dedicated and hungry enough to find that thing. That’s the right thing for you. So, take away all your focus and attention from the outside world and fixate it upon yourself to become the best version of yourself.
And if you are being compared for metrics that are out of your control, for instance, your height or your physical appearances, well then there’s only one thing left for you to tell them, “Go f*ck yourself.”(of course, not to their face, but in your mind, or maybe both, I don’t know.)
#3: Transform Adversities into Opportunities
Now is the time to stop acting like a wuss and start taking some serious actions.
Feeling bad because you are being compared? Good. Start discovering what it is you can be great at.
Feel worthless when you see your colleagues laughing at your incompetence? Good. Stop wasting your time doing meaningless things and get down to work.
Feel like you are getting left behind and there’s no one to carry you? Good. The world doesn’t owe you anything, so get back up and get going.
Stop giving too much importance to your feelings. In fact, if anything, instead of wallowing in your feelings, use the very same feelings to light a spark inside you to get you going and then see the magic. Comparison might not be the best thing, but you gotta need to learn how to deal with comparison nevertheless to do anything worthwhile in life. You can’t take cover behind this and use this as an excuse, or even worse, play the victim card.
So, what does healthy comparison imply? Well, it’s simple. The kind of comparison where only you are there in the race is what healthy comparison looks like.
In this race, you are gonna be competing with your old self and your supposed future self. Ideally, your present self should zoom past the past self, signifying that you are ahead of where you used to be, and behind your future self, signifying that you still have miles to go.
Comparison here isn’t actually bad but beneficial for you. If you have a future self in your mind where you see yourself, then comparing yourself today with where you wanna reach tomorrow will act like an extra thruster that will help you not become complacent in terms of your actions and always keep you charged up.
And at the same time, when you compare yourself with your past self, you will also have this sense of gratitude and contentment that you are actually way ahead of where you used to be. That will keep your mind calm and peaceful. This makes for a deadly combination.
Being cool from the inside and hyperactive from the outside should be the goal.
Also, if you are wondering what if you are actually behind your past self, then let me tell you that’s again your misinterpretation or simply you looking at things incompletely. At times, it might look like you are behind your past self too in terms of outcome and results, but what you are missing is the wisdom you added and the lessons you learned. So, as a whole package, you can never be behind your past self, and you should never be ahead of your future self.
What will happen if your kids start comparing you the same way you have been comparing them? What if they compare you with his millionaire friend’s parents who can afford a much more luxurious lifestyle than you, and your very own kids start feeling less in what you provide them with?
Won’t you feel angry? Frustrated? Is your self-esteem gonna stay intact? You see what I am talking about?
Similarly, your kids too would feel the same when they are being compared with others and are made to believe that they are not as good yet.
As long as you don’t stop comparing yourself with others all the time, you can’t possibly stop comparing your kids. So, start with yourself and acknowledge the fact that you are one of a kind, a unique creature and so is your kid. Hence, it doesn’t really make any sense to compare your own journey with someone else’s journey.
We are all unique and distinct in our own ways. Stop trying to disrespect yourself by comparing something that can’t really be compared.