The following is an excerpt from Lisa Sugarman’s latest book, How To Raise Perfectly Imperfect Kids And Be OK With It: Real Tips & Strategies for Parents of Today’s Gen Z Kids in bookstores everywhere September 1st.
Survival Tip 9:
Quit Comparing Yourself and Your Kids to Everyone Else
It’s human nature to compare ourselves to the people around us. It just is. And there isn’t one of us out there who doesn’t do it on at least some level. Whether we’re ranking ourselves for how tall or short we are or scrutinizing our marriage against our best friend’s relationship, we’re all prone to comparing ourselves to other people. It’s just what we do. Unfortunately, that tendency to compare ourselves to the people around us only magnifies when we send our kids off to school.
Once we enter the world of The School System, we open ourselves, and our kids, to a whole new world of people and things that lend themselves to being compared against—like other moms and other dads and other kids. And that can be super-dangerous when we’re parenting differently than the other parents out there or when our kids are learning or progressing at a different speed than the kids around them.
If you want to experience the joy of watching your child develop in school, while also helping them grow up healthy and comfortable in their own skin, avoid the trap of comparing your kid to other kids—or yourself to other parents. Instead, embrace sending your kids off to school and exposing them (and yourself) to all of the other beautiful influences that are around you, because that’s where the magic happens. Just brace yourself hard against comparing how your kid learns versus the kids around them and know, going into the school experience, that the learning curve is super wide and everyone falls in a very different place along that curve.
Take it from a mom who’s already sent two kids out into the big world: the best thing you can do for yourself and your child is to celebrate their accomplishments and their milestones and their pace. Because when you focus the lens onto what everyone around them is doing, that causes stress and anxiety in your kids and turns the learning process into something negative instead of the positive experience that it’s supposed to be.
Once you accept that every kid is different and they all operate on their own unique developmental clock, you’re ahead of the game.
You see, there’s a fine line between encouragement and pressure. It’s our job as parents to stay on the right side of that line. Because once you start telling your kids which sport to play or what instrument to choose or what language to study or which girls or boys they should be friends with, then you’ve taken away their ability to figure things out for themselves. Instead, you’re persuading them to do what’s good for you. They’re not doing what they really want anymore. Instead of learning to listen to their inner voice and discover what they love, they are learning to please a parent. And that’s not good.
We want to encourage our children to create excitement, motivation, and desire to do well. However, there is a fine line between encouragement and pressure. Finding a good balance can be hard to do. Take time to figure out the difference, because their impact creates different outcomes.
This All Applies to Parents Too
The other thing we need to avoid that’s just as important as not measuring our kids against other kids, is not measuring ourselves against other parents. Because believe me, you’ll want to. A lot. Especially once your kids get to school and you’re exposed to all types of parents. Resist that urge, because it will make you second-guess every decision you make. Not to mention that comparing yourself to other parents will never make you a better parent. It won’t help your sanity either!
It’s hard, I know, because when you start interacting with other parents and kids on a day-to-day basis the temptation is high to measure yourself and your own parenting style against all the other parents you meet. You learn just how many different types of parents and styles of parenting there are out there, which inevitably leads us to question how we parent our own kids. You’ll catch yourself trying to adapt all the approaches other parents use, expecting that you’ll have the same results. And while some will work, others will be epic fails.
Once we start comparing ourselves to the parents around us, we start to question whether we’re being strict enough or loose enough with our kids, and that can lead to making bad parenting decisions based only on how something worked for someone else. And that seems kinda dumb, doesn’t it? This is exactly why you need to resist the urge to follow along. Not everything works for everyone. Each kid and parent and family is decidedly different.