“I Know I shouldn’t compare kids, but…”
Comparing Kids? Go Ahead! COMPARE (but do it right):
Somewhere along the line a notion has evolved: “YOU SHOULDN’T COMPARE KIDS.” Still, many parents go right on to compare after making the disclaimer, “I KNOW I SHOULDN’T COMPARE, BUT...” Consider the following:
Comparing may be a fruitless endeavor, OR it may be beneficial (if it is viewed as sort of an extension of “Survival of the Fittest”). For example, if “Larry the Lion” sees other lions feasting, Larry will compare himself to the other lions, and then try to get some of the fresh food for himself and his family. One short-term benefit of Larry’s comparison is that he acquires food, and one longer-term benefit of the comparison could be that Larry modifies his hunting technique for the good of his family. Thus, we see that making comparisons is a normal (and necessary) part of the “survival” process. It is natural to compare, and there is nothing wrong with doing so, as long as the comparisons we make are valid.
We love our children so deeply that it is only natural for us to want the best for them in every way that we as parents value. Parents value many things, such as: safety, food, love, happiness, education, joy, courage, kindness, inspiration, dedication, cars, homes, toys, clothes, quality time, etc.
In spite of the great variability in what is valued, almost every parent wants their child’s development to progress optimally. How do parents “check” to ensure that their child’s development is progressing? Naturally, parents are inclined to compare their kid to others in the family, at the park, etc.
Herein lies the problem: Making comparisons is a natural thing to do out of well-meaning desires to proudly watch/help our children grow, however comparing to individual children is typically invalid, because children develop at widely different rates in so many different areas.
How, then, do we make a “valid” comparison?
- Use your pediatrician as a consultant.
- Use Developmental Charts (that are widely adopted/respected and derived from standardized tests) –like the charts in the F.E.A.T.S. - Family-friendly Evaluation And Teaching SystemTM
- If you are concerned, you may choose to have your child assessed using standardized tests which compare the development of your child to the average development of a large, representative sample of children (see Chapter12).
- And most importantly, remember that there are as many ways to grow up as there are people!
Be informed by the norm, but respect and encourage individual differences/preferences.