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  • Writer's pictureDr Martine Prunty

Comparing Kids

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

Why is my child not rolling yet? Sitting up? Crawling? Talking? Is there something wrong?

Every child is different. We know that. Yet why do we seem to fall into the frequent trap of comparing our children with their siblings or friends and cause ourselves unnecessary worry? The simple answer is that we tend to look for benchmarks to reassure ourselves that our kids are doing well. In theory this technique is supposed to be a way to alert us if something requires attention. However, a lot of the time, it tends to go beyond this and not only are we at risk of becoming overly concerned that our kids aren’t developing normally when they are, but also of causing stress to children as they become aware that you know they can’t do something as well as someone else.

Negative Effects Of Comparing Your Child

The child may feel pressure to perform at a task that they simply are not ready to achieve yet. This lowers their self esteem as they think they “can’t do it” and interpret that they are disappointing their parents. Constantly being reminded that someone else can do something they can’t (eg poo in the toilet, tie their shoelaces) further lowers confidence and leads to avoidance of particular activities before even trying them. This can also negatively affect social situations and a child’s confidence in forming new relationships with peers. Additionally, by focusing on activities that you may find more beneficial, eg writing their name or counting, an existing talent, eg singing, may go unnoticed. Finally, this all creates distance between the child and their parents as the child does not feel accepted and it can also foster sibling rivalry if the child interprets that you prefer the behaviour of their sibling.

What Can You Do?

· Praise incremental achievements: no matter how small they might be, so that your child gets a sense that they are improving and that you have noticed it. This builds confidence and motivation to continue.

· Praise their strengths: no matter how random or irrelevant to traditional measures of strength that they might be!

· Avoid setting unrealistic expectations: always remember to work within the realistic capability and interests of your child and no one else.

· Don’t seem more bothered than they are: don’t make them feel embarrassed or that they have let you down.

Children acquire developmental skills at varying rates, hence there is a wide range of what is considered “normal”. Milestones alone are not a tool for diagnosing a problem. Any developmental concern needs to be considered in a framework of foundations, patterns, biology and the context in which the behaviour occurs.

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