The Comparison Pit

by Heligirl on May 21, 2012

in Mom Tip Monday,Parenting Articles

Face it, all parents to it. I know I’m massively guilty. When surrounded by other parents and kids, now can you not, even in the least amount?

I’m talking about comparison.

From the time our kids are born our concern for their well being drives us to look at other children their age to determine if what our kids are doing is similar to their peers. And inevitably we’ll find shortcomings.

Why is she not sleeping through the night like him? He’s three months older than her, why does she have more teeth? He’s been toilet trained for months and she’s older, why is she still in diapers? How come he doesn’t know his letters like that other boy in his class? Everyone is writing their names in preschool and she can only make the first letter. She’s reading books out loud and I can’t get mine to sound out three letter words. She’s writing emails on the computer and I can only get him to turn on the computer. Most of the other kids are mastering algebra, why is she still coming home with C- grades?

And on and on throughout life.

It’s one thing to compare, but when you take it a step further and obsesses about how you’ve failed completely (please tell me this isn’t only me), it can be hard on you and the kids.

Experts argue that social skills are more important than academic skills for kids under 5.

First, don’t hesitate to check with your pediatrician during your regular child checkups. She or he will tell you what is normal development. There is a whole range of time when kids can pick up skills, and some will pick up certain skills faster than others (my daughter had language down pat early on while my son focused more on gross motor skills then language). As long as your pediatrician isn’t concerned about an issue, you have a free pass to chill.

I know, easier said than done.

The wake-up call for me was when I learned of two friends with kids my daughter’s age who were reading full on to themselves and out loud at the age of 4 ½. One was even texting her mom from the family iPad.

Sweetness knows her letters and all letter sounds. We’ve started beginning reading, but I never really pushed it on her. She’s of the personality that if you push her to do something, she’ll rebel. Thus potty training taking a good year longer than her nanny share buddy who was a week younger than her (not that I was comparing or anything).

After obsessing about those kids who were reading, I called a girlfriend with a boy in Sweetness’ preschool class who has a daughter in first grade and herself is very active in the grade school PTA. I asked her opinion on whether I should be sending Sweetness to more than three days a week of preschool in order to help her develop the skills she needs to be successful in kindergarten.

My buddy set me straight.

Those of us who take the time to educate ourselves (you included my friend as you’re online reading about parenting, taking an active interest in educating yourself on how to be the best parent you can be), are unfortunately not the vast majority. Many children show up in public kindergarten not reading yet (which, to be honest, is not a requirement unless you’re trying to get into a super competitive private school).

Others still may know how to read just fine because a parent stayed home and taught them reading, writing, math and other academics, but because of a lack of attendance in preschool or daycare, these kids lacked social skills, which child development experts argue are far more important than academics for a 5 year old.

My pal reminded me that Sweetness has great social skills, having long ago overcome any separation anxiety, learned to share, plays well with others, takes turns, sits quietly through circle and story time, can follow directions, knows about rules and boundaries in a classroom-like setting, and has strong communication skills. When she walks into kindergarten, she’ll only need to focus on building on her academic skills, which my friend assured me were spot on for her age.

So, my mom tip today is to keep comparison in perspective.

It’s so hard not to worry if your child is developing or learning at the right pace, but we have to remember that they each have their own pace. Pushing them can erode confidence and hurt self-esteem in the long run.

No matter your child’s age, follow your child’s lead, make learning fun, give them opportunities to learn social and life skills, and respect their limits.

Our job is to love them, encourage them, support them, and assure they’re well fed, cared for and given opportunities to express their natural curiosity. They’re hard wired to learn, and they will if we just follow that recipe.


Liz F May 21, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I didn’t *really* learn how to read until I was in grade 1. I could read words by themselves, but wasn’t really into sentences and such. My reading comprehension is still not fantastic, but man oh man can I write! Everyone has their own speed at which they learn. 🙂 I love having friends with kids who are the same age as mine because it makes me worry so much less when some of them are EXACTLY where Damien is. It’s a huge comfort 🙂

Carol May 22, 2012 at 7:23 am

Thanks for this post. I really love it. very interesting one!
Carol recently posted: anxiety

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