Why you shouldn't compare your kids to one another

By Jason Thomson on May 14, 2013


Our 13-year-old is a standout student. She spends countless hours volunteering at our (awesome) local kids’ theatre and brims with a sense of responsibility. Our 11-year-old? Not-so-much. He’s a decent student, but could be better. He’s not proactive and I don’t think I’d feel comfortable leaving the two-year-old with him for any real amount of time.

See the tragic parenting mistake I just made there?

I directly compared two of my kids. This is not a good thing. In fact, if you want a shortcut for heartache, headaches and all out war with your spouse, start comparing the kids in a blended family.

And while all of those serve as reasons not to start the comparison, there’s an even better reason.

You compare your kids (even in a non-blended family), you’re missing the entire point of having your kids. The point, of course, is to understand and grow your kids for who they are, not who you can compare them to. This goes double for a blended family, where you start to truly see the genetic predispositions of kids from each legacy family. One kid might be a great visual learner, another one a standout rote learner. Ultimately, you need to look at each child specifically and understand what they need at any given time.

This one’s a tough one. In the Western world, we’re constantly pushed to compare one thing to another. This sports team is better than that sports team (sob: Maple Leafs). This product is better than that product. And all too often, this kid is better than that kid. As people, we benchmark outcomes and achievements. It makes us feel better (or worse) and tells us if we’re on the right track.

But to me, there is only one comparison that is actually important – and that’s comparing a child to who they were before.

Let’s take “The Jester” – the 11-year-old. If I compare him to the 13-year-old “Leader in Training,” I’m not actually helping or celebrating either of them. Instead, I look at who these kids were three, two or a year ago. By that measure, The Jester has made quantum leaps in his education. He continues to accelerate his momentum. By looking at who he is and where he is compared to himself, I can better understand how to appreciate his sense of humour, his quick mind and his general sweetness. I can also look at where he can grow and put the right resources there. If I compared him to the Leader in Training, I’d fret about his level of responsibility, his homework habits and his lack of overall drive.

At the same time, I’d be doing a disservice to the Leader in Training. Her growth stands out because it’s her growth, not her growth when compared to others. Because she’s emerging as a musical theatre kid, should I be comparing her to other kids at her theatre? Renowned child actors? Ohmygosh, is she failing life because she isn’t auditioning for more big plays?

I know it’s hyperbolic, but there’s really no point in comparing one to the other. Each child is who he or she is. Our role as parents is to a) keep them alive and b) give them the guidance to be the best version of themselves that they can be.

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