The ugly habit of comparison parentingWritten by Audra Charlebois
What's inside this article
Ever since my daughter was born, I’ve referred to her as my "dream baby." From day one, she ate when she was supposed to eat, burped when she was supposed to burp and slept when she was supposed to sleep. By six weeks old, she was already sleeping through the night. I was so proud.
One day I met another child, five months older than mine, who wasstill waking several times each night. "I’m glad I don’t have thatbaby," I said. "His parents must be delirious from lack of sleep."
Shortly afterward, however, I spent time with another family whosebaby was already crawling. He was nearly two months younger than mydaughter.I wonder why my baby isn’t crawling yet, I thought. Is she slow in developing? Is something wrong?
Pride vs. proving
It’s normal for parents to be proud of their child’s smallestaccomplishments. Even during pregnancy, I beamed with pride when thedoctor said my child was healthy and strong. But as a first-timeparent, I also felt unsure of myself and began to look at otherfamilies to see if I was doing things correctly.
Before long I noticed my daughter was healthier than other children.She was pleasant-natured and fussed much less than others. I also foundthat although she slept well, she didn’t sleep as long as her cousin.And I was slightly disappointed that she didn’t crawl as early as myfriend’s baby.
Soon, my observations evolved into a passive-aggressive competition.I began constantly comparing my daughter – her clothing, diet, how muchshe drooled – to the kids around us. Nothing escaped my attention. Thevery accomplishments on which I prided myself began to eat away at mythoughts, morphing into endless comparisons. I no longer simply adoredmy child; I had to prove why she was adorable.
The harm in comparing
I’m not the first parent to experience this impulse. Even Isaac andRebekah compared their twin boys, Jacob and Esau. Each preferred oneover the other – a competition that led to deceit and bitter strife.Similarly, when Jacob had children, his preference for Joseph made hisother sons jealous, spawning hatred, lies and plans for murder.
Comparison pits child against child, parent against child, andparent against parent. If my child sees me comparing her to others,she’ll probably learn to do it herself. I dread the thought of mydaughter treating others with contempt because she thinks she’s betterthan they are. I’ve seen teens grow up to live double lives,desperately avoiding the scrutiny of a parent to whom they could nevermeasure up. I’ve witnessed the destruction that petty competition caninflict on friendships, families and marriages.
At times I feel I am fighting a hopeless battle. Even though I cryout for God to rid my heart of this ugly habit, I still catch myselfmaking comparisons. But God has helped me understand something thatgives me hope: I am not perfect, nor can my children ever be perfect,but Jesus is. Ironically, this comparison between Christ’s perfectionand my inadequacy doesn’t make me feel miserable. Instead, the moretime I spend looking at Him, the more I become like Him. I feel secureknowing that He loves me in spite of my faults and never criticizes mewhen I fall short.
My hope is that as I grow more into His image, I can relay thatsecurity to my daughter. I want her value to come from Him, not fromtallying her accomplishments next to someone else’s. I want her torejoice in who she is, not stress over who she isn’t.
Old habits die hard, and I may struggle with the urge to compare forthe rest of my life. I just need to remember that my job as a parentgoes beyond shuttling my daughter through a set of developmentalmilestones. Parenting success does not come by comparing my child’sachievements but by introducing her to an incomparable God.
If you liked this article and would like to go deeper, we have some helpful resources below.Our recommended resources
Free advice on marriage, parenting and Christian living delivered straight to your inbox