Why comparing your kids to their peers has negative consequences

Because we’re always thinking about the next generation, parents are often obsessed with connecting their kids with some kind of social graph. What do they have in common with their peers? Are there traits or characteristics that a sibling or friend shares that is not taught in your family?

Not only do these comparisons lead to doubt and self-loathing, but they actually contribute to bad behaviors, and can impede your children’s ability to love and enjoy themselves.

You might wonder how this is possible. Let’s take a look at some of the ways comparing your children to their peers makes them unhappy, and what you can do about it.

The comparison culture

We all compare ourselves to others – what’s the point of being a parent if you aren’t? But the problem is that most parents take that comparison a step further, making it their number one priority.

Social comparison is a powerful force that influences our children not only externally, but also internally. If you see that your child is not popular enough at school, or isn’t at the same level as her friends, it’s easy to feel stressed out, like you’re failing in some way.

Beyond just comparing yourself to others, parents who over-use social comparisons also encourage children to see themselves as kids who constantly perform or excel at something, and that success is without effort. Think of it as an endless cycle of sitting in your kids’ rooms counting your minutes in your children’s sports program, or constantly comparing your child’s grades, or even their home life.

What’s the solution? The power of social comparison is found in the people we choose to connect to. So instead of focusing on whether or not your child is popular, or whether they get a better job than you, focus on why they’re doing well. Ask yourself, “What do they enjoy about their jobs? Are they doing what they love?”

Encourage your children to be themselves, and expect them to be the best they can be. Finally, like the 5 C’s of parenting, the #1 way to try to build happiness in your children is to accept the person they are, and embrace how things might not always be perfect.

Allow your kids to stumble, err, and fail. This will make them more valuable as people, rather than making them a distant target of obsession and frustration. This is the kind of parental perspective that gives them the ability to shine, rather than a negative force that would only cause them to retreat, get left behind, and then believe that they aren’t good enough.


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