The trap of comparison often makes first-time parents stressed out and worried for no real reason because each child develops uniquely and independently.

The Trap of Comparison

Mommy Crusader Being a Mommy, Parenting 20 Comments

There’s one piece of advice I wish I had listened to when I was a new Mom. I was told by a very loving person that there’s no room for comparison when raising children. I wish I had listened to that bit of advice, instead I found myself falling into the trap of comparison when my first child didn’t follow some of the “normal” timelines.

The trap of comparison often makes first-time parents stressed out and worried for no real reason because each child develops uniquely and independently.

Each child is so different, that comparing one child to another is just setting up a cycle of pride and disappointment. I was so proud when my first child sat early – at only three months. I thought I had the most unique, talented, amazing baby there ever was. And by extension, that I was the best Mommy in the world. But then, she wouldn’t crawl. She wouldn’t crawl until well past nine months old. So, instead of being proud of my amazing baby, I was stressed out and worried. I was disappointed in my baby, when I should still have been amazed by all she was learning. And I was beating myself up, because obviously I hadn’t done something right.

The trap of comparison often makes first-time parents stressed out and worried for no real reason because each child develops uniquely and independently.

My fifth grader, holding my third grader when he was four months old.

She started crawling when we went to visit Grandma’s house. We believe the reason she wasn’t crawling before was that there wasn’t a need. Our apartment was so small; she didn’t need to crawl to reach what she wanted. She only had to roll over and get it. She started crawling when we visited with Grandma because Grandma’s house was much larger, so she actually had to crawl to get to where she wanted to be. I’d spent six months worrying needlessly, and beating myself up over something that I didn’t need to worry about. I spent all this time worrying because my baby wasn’t progressing the way she “should” have been.

The trap of comparison often makes first-time parents stressed out and worried for no real reason because each child develops uniquely and independently.

My fifth grader is holding my first grader, when he was a day old.

Another time, when my oldest was about 18 months old, we had a playdate with another 18 month old. I gave both girls a cup of Fruit Loops to have as a snack. Our visitor sat there and sorted all the Fruit Loops into the separate colors, and named all of the colors, before she ate them. My daughter, she just ate them. When I told my husband, he kind of freaked out, and spent the next month frustrated, trying to teach my daughter her colors. She has since learned her colors, and a whole bunch of other things, too. Each child takes their time learning different skills. Patience often is rewarded with seeing the child master the concept he or she was struggling with earlier.

Fast forward a few children, and some conversations started sounding like this: “My (daughter) knows all her colors, numbers, and letters. How’s (my child’s name) doing?” asks a friend. My internal response was “why does it matter to you? He’s not got all those things figured out yet, but he’s only three.” Instead, I took a step back and tried to understand what the mother was really trying to say. The mother was really trying to say how excited she was that her child was learning so much. I complimented her on the progress her child was making. Nothing was said about my child. By this time, I’d learned that each of my children were unique and to not worry about how they compared to other children.

The trap of comparison often makes first-time parents stressed out and worried for no real reason because each child develops uniquely and independently.

My fifth grader is holding my preschooler when she was just a month old.

Comparing one child to another doesn’t set anyone up for success. It’s important to make sure each child is progressing and learning. But the only person the child should be compared to is himself or herself. There should never be cross comparisons between cousins, siblings, or friends.

Each child is unique and develops at his or her own speed.

My last baby is a great example of this. According to all the books, she’s not developed “normally” at all. She crawled at about five months, and then started sitting at about six months. “Normally” babies sit first, for a month or two, then they crawl. I wasn’t worried. I knew she’d figure out how to sit sooner or later. Then, she did it again. She didn’t learn to walk until she was almost 14 months old. But, she could stand from sitting at about 11 months. Again, she wasn’t developing “normally”, but she was still developing, growing, and learning. When children stop developing, growing, and learning — that is when it’s time to talk with their pediatrician about their development. But it’s still not time to compare them to siblings, cousins, or friends.

The trap of comparison often makes first-time parents stressed out and worried for no real reason because each child develops uniquely and independently.

My fifth grader is holding my toddler when she was a day old.

Every child is unique. Each has special qualities, strengths, and weaknesses. Not all children develop in the same way. Comparing them to each other only sets up disappointment and feelings of inadequacy. Each child needs to be celebrated and loved unconditionally – no matter where they are in their developmental progress. There really is no room for comparison when raising children.

The trap of comparison often makes first-time parents stressed out and worried for no real reason because each child develops uniquely and independently.

This post was written as part of the Tot Hacks series on Best Toys for Toddlers.  Read more of the best advice that moms received here.

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Comments 20

  1. So true! I think it takes a couple kids to realize that though. By the time you’ve had a few, you don’t even look at baby books or think about milestones very much! 🙂

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      Exactly. I even find myself telling doctors, “oh, don’t worry, they’re developing just fine, they’re just doing it their own way.” at check ups. 🙂 Thanks for the comment and for coming by.

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  2. Oh, I love this too! You write great, encouraging and wise posts! So glad I came by today. Like I said in my previous comment, my 19 month old isn’t saying a lot of words yet causing my husband and I to worry a little when we hear babies months younger saying words like “stuck” and “thanks”. You are just so right as he really understands so much, so there is no need to stress. He’ll come along 🙂

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  3. I appreciate your wise words. You are a wonderful mother. Our first boy was born with special needs so his accomplishments were much different than those of his friends. His milestones were miraculous. But come to think of it we are all miraculous in our own way, aren’t we? Each child is unique, special & had their own strengths & talents. I’m so grateful I saw your blog tonight to hear this reminder. Comparing is never helpful in our lives, thank you for this. Please hug your kids from us. We sure do miss you’

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      Jill, you make an excellent point. We are all miraculous. Thank you for adding to the conversation, and for checking out the blog. We miss you all very much. Sending our love to you and yours. 🙂

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  4. Great post! I learned not to compare my kids’ development, but then they get into school and you have to learn not to compare educational progress either. Thanks for sharing at Snickerdoodle Sunday. 🙂

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  5. My daughter is expecting her second baby and wondering how my granddaughter will react to the new addition. I had three kids and each one was so different that there was never any comparison made between them. There is plenty of love and each child is perfect in their own way.

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      I just now saw your comment, and I’m sorry I’ve been so long in replying. I hope your daughter has had her baby and found that big sister is enjoying her new role. I’m sure there will be days she wants attention, as all children do, but I also positive that she will love her new sibling. And, just as you said, each child is perfect in their own way. Congratulations and lots of love! 🙂

  6. Wonderful post! When kids were very small it was easier, I was lucky to be the first one among my friends to have a baby, so there was no one to compare my son to. My girl was so different from pregnancy even, we knew right away there is no point comparing. Now that they are school age it is a little bit harder because people are constantly asking how they’re doing (especially because they are homeschooled) and want to share how their kids are or aren’t different. So I’m learning to be happy for other kids and to comfortably share what my own are doing without comparing. Every child is a gift.

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