From baby names to growth charts to report cards, all parents want to know how does my child stack up? If you struggle with comparing your child to others, these four simple tips will help you let go of that habit and appreciate your own kid’s different strengths and gifts.
“My 8-week-old doesn’t smile as much as her sister did.”
“My son isn’t as athletic as the other boys his age.”
Although dangerous and unrealistic, the temptation to compare our children to others is generations old.
Consider Abraham. He and his wife Sarah were the parents of two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. Sarah favored Isaac to the point that Abraham was forced to banish Ishmael―his firstborn―from their home forever.
A generation later, Isaac compared his own sons and favored Jacob. His wife, on the other hand, preferred Esau. Tragically, their favoritism resulted in heartache and loss.
To continue the saga of comparison, Jacob made a colorful coat for the son he preferred over all the others. In the end, his favoritism carved a pit for Joseph that resulted in separation and hardship.
Comparing our children―whether to siblings or peers―breeds insecurity, fosters sibling rivalry, produces stress and anxiety, and creates distance in our relationships. As Theodore Roosevelt put it, “comparison is the thief of joy.”
Why, then, are we still so tempted to match our children up to others?
DEALING WITH PRIDE
Perhaps the most common source of our temptation to compare is a desire to win. In other words, we want our child to be the smartest, biggest, brightest, or the most pleasant. But the truth is, our children haven’t been given to us so we can enter them into a game or race.
Instead, our children are given to us for a short time so we can guide them, nurture them, and teach them to love the Lord. They are not our creations. They are the Lord’s. Each one is a unique being, molded by the hands of a perfect Creator.
THE PERFORMANCE TRAP
When we view our children as a way to measure our parenting skills, we fall into a precarious performance trap. A baby who sits up a little later than his peers gives us an F on our performance report card. On the other hand, a middle schooler who scores a soccer goal for his team earns us an A! It’s an absurd but common parenting practice.
If we’ve fallen into the ‘performance trap’, it’s important to recognize two things. First, our children are not an extension of us—they’re individuals. Secondly, our performance as a parent will never bring us the acceptance and approval we crave.
The good news is, we can find our way out of the trap. Instead of our performance, we can depend on God’s grace. That’s because it’s not what we do but what He’s already done that gives us full acceptance. In other words, “you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
With an overload of digital information at our fingertips―combined with well-meaning advice from family and friends―it’s easy to be plagued with parenting fears and concerns. After all, countless charts and formulas tell us whether our children are exceeding or falling short. At the same time, social media offers a neverending reminder of whether or not our children are measuring up to a preconceived norm.
The problem with information overload is that our children are unique. The Bible tells us God formed each of them in the womb―with all their talents, personalities, and quirks―just like He wanted them. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).
So, between pride, the performance trap, and information overload; what’s a mom to do?
Remember your child is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) by the Creator of the Universe, who’s willing to guide you as a parent. If you learn to be okay with who they are, they’ll learn to be okay with who they are. Focus on getting to know your child. Help them develop their unique strengths and encourage them to strengthen their weaknesses.
As you focus on appreciating your child’s uniqueness, you’ll grow more comfortable with their development. In the end, you’ll be able to express a more pure form of unconditional love.
Let Go of the Ideal
There is none. Your child is miraculously one-of-a-kind. Exclusive. Distinct. Matchless. Rare. There’s no standard of perfection they must meet or adhere to. Learn to enjoy and appreciate their uniqueness.
Give Yourself Permission to Do What is Right for Your Child
As you relax and focus on getting to know your child better, your confidence in them will grow. Listen to them and decide for yourself what they need. Follow the path that’s best for them, not necessarily the one everyone else is on. Ask God to help you, and entrust yourself to Him as the Source of all wisdom and love. After all, who loves your child more than He does?
Ask God to Redeem Your Comparison Struggles
God didn’t leave Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph in the mess their parents created for them. Instead, He beautifully redeemed their pasts and wove them into His glorious plan for the salvation of the world.
If you’ve been comparing your child to others instead of appreciating them for who they are, first, stop. Then, ask God to redeem any hurts, unhealthy habits, or critical messages your behaviors may have caused. As you focus on loving your child unconditionally, your parenting journey will become a powerful testimony of His love and faithfulness.
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