“Wow, he didn’t walk until 16 months? That is SO LATE!”
“My child had 20 words before they were 2. Isn’t that what they’re supposed to have?”
“Oh he isn’t crawling yet? Aren’t you concerned?”
“She’s still not talking in two word sentences. But your child is, I don’t understand why!”
If you’re a mom of young children or just a mom in general, chances are you’ve been a part of these conversations. You’ve probably had similar things said to you as you stand around at the park watching your child play with other kids.
It’s all too familiar isn’t it?
What am I talking about that makes me want to walk away from these conversations with other moms?
I talked about this very thing a few weeks ago in my instagram stories because it’s something that is as common as your toddler’s 10 AM poop every morning. We’ve all done it and we’ve all had it done to us. I’m not talking about having a chat with a close friend and discussing concerns you might have about your own child. That’s entirely different. I’m talking about feeling the need to constantly compare your child to other children in terms of what they are (or aren’t doing) to reassure yourself.
If you didn’t catch my insta stories, then I’ll tell you now how I really feel about it.
I think it’s a huge waste of time and it’s NOT important.
Today I’m going to share in more detail WHY.
- Comparison can create unnecessary competition. This is inevitable . When parents stand around and start talking about what their kids are doing or developing in, it will without a doubt stir up feelings of competition. When did parenthood become about whose child does “X Y Z” the soonest, fastest or most efficiently? All of sudden we’re worried about our child performing in a certain way because little Bobby had 40 words before the age of two. This sense of competition can strain relationships with friends, family AND our own children. None of which is healthy from a relational standpoint.
- Comparison can create unhealthy expectations. THIS is really important. If you don’t take anything else away from this post, please consider this point. When we get caught up in this comparison trap we can place heavy, unrealistic expectations on our own kids. This is not fair to them. As a former ECE, someone who studied early childhood development in college and then spent many subsequent years working with young children, I’m here to tell you that children develop uniquely based on a variety of factors. Is there a standard of development for babies, toddlers and children? Yes. I’m NOT saying you shouldn’t take your child to a doctor/specialist if you suspect developmental delays. What I am saying is it can be damaging to our children to continually compare them to others. Ask a therapist. Ask them what they counsel many adults about. It’s often the damage that person felt as child being constantly compared to others, never feeling good enough. That is serious. Consider the weight of your words and expectations with your children. What is most important to you as a parent? Don’t make your affection and love something that your child has to earn based on how they perform or what they do.
- Our child’s development actually has little to do with our abilities as parents. We NEED to hear this as parents! We think that because we did (or do) X Y Z our children are little geniuses. OR it’s the reason WHY they aren’t doing this or that. Whether your child was walking at 9 months or 18 months does NOT make you a GOOD or BAD parent. It doesn’t mean anything. Children are intrinsically motivated to develop certain skills and abilities based on their OWN unique personalities. If you have one child right now, it might be difficult to see this. But if you have more down the road, you will see the differences in your children and learn that personality has so much to do with what children are motivated to learn.
- Comparison can reveal our DEEP insecurities. This point is interesting. When I’ve had these conversations with other parents, I often start to see what exactly they are insecure about. I’m not a therapist or counsellor but it isn’t difficult to feel the weight of someone’s insecurities in the conversations you have with them. If you personally find yourself caught up in comparison, worrying about what your child is (or isn’t) doing and always talking about it, I would encourage you to seek counsel. Again, I’m NOT a professional but I think it can only do good to talk through our own insecurities as parents, if they are consuming us and negatively impacting our parenting. This is also why, when you have these conversations with other parents and start to feel overwhelmed you can say, ” Your insecurities are NOT my insecurities.” Maybe don’t say it out loud, but you can have some understanding as to WHY so many people struggle with comparison. It’s often deeply rooted in insecurity that can stem from a variety of causes.
- Comparison is a waste of precious time, at the end of the day. Moms and dads, I’m here to tell you-it’s just not as important as you might think it is. I’m not saying you shouldn’t care how your child is developing. But remember, much of how children develop in their early years has little bearing on their lives in the long term.
What if you feel like you’re really stuck in this vicious cycle of comparison with your child? I have a few ideas that you could try to shut it down and start changing the way you think.
- Look at your child’s qualities, abilities and skills as unique to them. Appreciate what they ARE doing, focus on those things and work with them.
- Talk with someone about your own insecurities. I’ve been professionally counselled before and it was one of the best decisions of my life. I know two different (wonderful) local Psychotherapists who work with parents, children, and offer maternal mental health support, specifically. Contact me if you want their information!
- Start purposing today to just love your child without expectations. Embrace who God made them to be. Let go of who you think they should be and what they should be doing. Imagine how freeing this can be for you and your family!
I’m on this journey, with you. I understand the trap that comparison can be. I understand the pride, insecurities and frustration that comes with parenting. We ALL want the best for our children! We want them to succeed in life. Don’t beat yourself up if you struggle with this, I’ve been there! A tell tale sign that you struggle with it could be that you feel the need to constantly prove to other’s that your child is developing normally. Hey, it’s ok. Just take a deep breath!
It’s a one day at a time process and we’ll all get there. You’re doing a great job!
If these thoughts resonate with you, I’d LOVE to hear from you in the comments.