The Pitfalls of Comparing Children

two adorable siblings playing togetherIf you have more thant one child it can be natural to start comparing your kids to each other, or even if you just have one kids, natural to compare him or her to other children. However, comparing kids is not such a great idea if your child realizes it, or if as a parent you start to put too much pressure on him or her. I have caught myself many times comparing my 15 month toddler to my oldest son when he was his age, and that is something I need to stop doing myself. Each child is a unique individual and needs to be treated so, and as parents, our parenting style needs to adjust to. What might work for one child may not work and need a totally different approach on a sibling.

So, between sports, homework, dance classes and after-school activities, today’s adolescents are under unprecedented demands to succeed and are left with little time for just being kids.

How early does such pressure to achieve begin? Some might argue it’s as early as infancy, and perhaps even earlier. We’ve all seen advertisements for audio speakers that play classical music through the womb to stimulate babies who are not yet even born.

Newborns are on the same playing field. Nobody expects our little bundles of joy to do much more than eat, sleep, pee, poop, cry and look cute. Very quickly thereafter, things change.

We begin to look for milestones, those developmental events that indicate our babies are progressing, and rightfully so. Babies who don’t meet certain milestones by a given age may be in need of outside assistance, such as physical, occupational or speech therapy. However, the age at which children reach these milestones isn’t set in, well, stone. There’s a range for each, and that’s what parents often forget.

We beam with pride when our babies meet each milestone, and we dutifully note the date in our baby books. First it’s smiling. Next it’s rolling over. It continues with sitting unassisted, crawling, pulling up, cruising, walking, talking, identifying numbers, letters and colors, reading… the list continues.

That’s where we get into trouble. If our little darlings aren’t doing something when we think they should, we become anxious. And heaven forbid another baby is doing it first, we verge on panic. If another parent’s baby is doing something particularly early, we become (admit it) jealous.

So we work hard to help our babies achieve these milestones. We dangle toys in front of them in hopes of getting them to crawl, and we provide so-called educational or developmental toys. It’s the right thing to do. Assistance, encouragement and opportunity are essential to helping our children work on their developmental achievements.
But as seasoned parents of older children often say, children do it in their own time. A child destined to walk at 14 months is unlikely to do it at 11 months. Perhaps it’s genetic, and perhaps it’s temperamental. A more cautious baby may hesitate to pull up until he’s confident enough to know how to get back down without falling. A baby who speed crawls may not want to walk because he can get to his destination faster by crawling. Some people say that smaller babies can do physical things, like sit up, earlier because they have less weight to manage. These are all theories, but we do know that every baby is different.

All said, it’s prudent to be mindful of actual delays. You can bring up any developmental concerns with your child’s pediatrician. And if your parenting instinct tells you that something is truly wrong, you can have your child evaluated by a developmental pediatrician or your state’s early intervention system.

It’s important to give our children opportunities to practice new skills and to help them learn, but it pays to be realistic. To panic any time our children don’t reach a milestone exactly when other babies do sets us up for a lifetime of worry, jealousy and regret. So don't worry to much and just enjoy and cherish your children while you have the opportunity to.

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