Comparison is the death of joy - Mark Twain

The words cruise out of our mouths inadvertently. "Look at him/her, she is so much better than you" or "Why can't you be more like him/her?". Why do we compare our children with others? As much as we want to refrain from it, we end up doing it. Is it an inevitable human trait or can we resist the impulse if we try?
Well, "comparison" is counter-productive for anyone. But it is all the more debasing for children. Children are tender beings and they do not take too well to negative criticism. And if the criticism involves telling them how others are better than they are in some way, then it is all the more painful. This does not mean that we shouldn't point out their mistakes and help them improve, but anything beyond this is overkill.
Every child is different. In the present age, where competition has spread its tentacles in every walk of life, it is crucial to teach our kids to be grounded. And comparing them at each step will just not help. They should be taught to better themselves with each day, not to be better than their counterparts.
"To constantly harangue them about how much better others are will do nothing but lay the foundation for an inferiority complex."
It is natural to want to know where our children stand amidst others, in this world of ranks and percentages and where everyone is bidding for that coveted seat in a top school or university. But to constantly harangue them about how much better others are will do nothing but lay the foundation for an inferiority complex. Here are some reasons why we should not compare our children with others.
1. It will cause self-doubt
If we are told by someone that we are not good at something and that there are others out there who are excel at it, slowly but steadily self-doubt will grow. Our children will be left wondering if they can ever be good enough. Our job as parents is to encourage them at every step they take, not remind them of who else is ahead.
2. Jealousy will take root
If you keep comparing your child with an apparent paragon of virtue, he or she may begin to suffer from pangs of extreme jealousy. It can be a neighbourhood kid, a classmate, a cousin and so on. Jealousy is not a very healthy feeling to harbour and the poor child will be tormented by jealousy which could all to easily turn into hatred, and perhaps even aggression.
3. It will breed negativity
When others are always being built up and the child torn down, he or she could become negative - why even try if you can never measure up, after all? Rather than embracing new tasks and challenges with a positive spirit, the child's assumptions about himself and the outcomes of what he or she does will be negative. Negativity is not at all good for a person's well being. We all want to raise children who are positive and who spread happiness around.
4. It will damage the parent-child relationship
If you tell your child time and again that the neighbour's kid is better than her, she will eventually start despising you. Children are emotionally vulnerable. They may not be able to see the bigger picture and that you are concerned for them. Instead, they will feel that you are not on their side.
5. They will grow into jittery and nervous adults
Parents who compare their kids at the drop of a hat will eventually make their kids nervous and jittery. The child may become excessively focused on pleasing the parents (and others) and will constantly feel they are not meeting expectations. They will lose their natural confidence and autonomy.
Parenting is the most difficult job in the world and there is no such thing as the "ideal parent". But, we are the first teachers of our children. We are the ones they look up to and we are the ones they come to when they are low. So, it is our duty to strive to put our best foot forward, to let our kids grow each day in a positive environment. Let us tell them every day how special they are.
A version of this blog first appeared here.

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