I jinxed myself, again. Just as I was writing about how my toddler’s tantrums don’t seem as terrible as in the past, he threw an all-out, can’t-catch-my-breath tantrum in what should have been a fun Saturday at a children’s birthday party. We had to listen to him cry the whole ride home—through traffic, of course—before he eventually calmed down.
All the while, I couldn’t help but think back to the birthday party where I saw his two-year-old cousin (the birthday celebrant) laughing with the family, sharing his toys and accepting gifts from his guests like a gracious host. And here was my toddler, ready to cry if I even so much as got up to grab a cup of water. And sadly I couldn’t help but compare their two very different dispositions.
The close proximity in their ages don’t make comparisons any easier. Only seven months apart, comparisons are bound to happen, whether one likes to dance, the other likes to fiddle with gadgets, and who got their teeth/started to walk/ate solids at what age.
If seven months seem short, one of my friends has a son who is just two weeks younger than my toddler, so you can imagine the comparisons running through my head: “How come LO isn’t into cars and bikes like L?” “L can already jump and is potty trained.” And so forth.
It’s so easy to compare. We compare whether our kids are into the same hobbies as others, what skills other kids have mastered that ours still haven’t (and vice versa), and we even compare their personalities. When I find myself comparing my little guy to others, I remind myself not to do so in a way that would make me doubt his own pace and abilities, because:
- Every child has his own interests: Just as we adults have our own hobbies and pastimes, so do our kids. Children differ in their interests and will therefore expend effort on those that they enjoy.
- Every child has his own skills: It’s so easy to forget our kids’ own amazing skills when we compare their shortcomings to others.
- Every child has his own personality: While I absolutely love my toddler’s personality—his inquisitiveness, quick mind, humor and playfulness—one of the issues I grapple with is his fiery (and loud) temperament. Accepting kids for who they are rather than comparing their temperaments is key.
- Every child develops at his own pace: While my toddler started walking early at 10 months, he was 21 months before he finally spoke his first words. As SSBE reader Tragic Sandwich wrote in a comment a few weeks ago:
There is a really wide range of normal, and all the weird stuff your baby is going to do fits right in the middle of that range.
Rather than comparing kids only to feel like we’ve failed, maybe we can use comparisons as a way to introduce new skills and interests. For instance, I recently read on a blog about a mom who showed her toddler how to slice a banana. I had never considered this skill, but rather than pressuring my toddler to slice every bunch of banana or worry whether he’s set back because he has yet to slice his own food, I found a plastic knife and showed him how fun slicing one of his favorite fruits can be.
I took the same approach when I heard that one of his playmates can remove his own shoes. Rather than sulk about my toddler’s inability to do the same or push him to perfect this skill in a day, I gradually introduced and practiced with him on how to remove his shoes. So yes, we can notice what other kids are doing and even introduce some of those skills to our kids, but try not to worry or fuss if they don’t catch on right away or have no interest.
Even though my toddler threw a tantrum in front of my husband’s family while his little cousin smiled sweetly and happily, I also have to assume that every parent, no matter the child’s temperament, has dealt with his or her own versions of the worst-tantrum-ever. In the moment, tantrums are embarrassing and draining, but in hindsight, I’m willing to bet that even my toddler’s sweet cousin has had his terrible days as well.
And even if his cousin’s tantrums are nowhere near the caliber my little guy can throw, accepting my toddler for everything that he is will serve us much better and lead to fewer comparisons. Tantrums are terrible, but I can’t imagine trading my toddler’s personality for anyone else.
And his shoes? He can now remove them all on his own.
How do you keep yourself from comparing your kids to others? Have you used comparisons in a positive way, e.g. as a way to introduce new skills?