I promised myself when I started having children I would never compare them to each other or to other peoples children. Fast forward to the present, I am now the parent to a 5 year-old daughter and a 3 year-old son. I find myself slipping up every now and then and making comparisons. Just this week I told my son that his sister was already potty trained by the time she was 3 and why wasn’t he. Of course I’d love him to be potty trained, but at what cost? Am I setting him up for failure, trying to force him into something he’s not ready for? Absolutely! We have friends who have a son about my daughter’s age. He did several things ahead of my daughter, largely because he was in daycare from a young age and subsequently pre-school starting at 2. My daughter started pre-school at 3, so naturally he caught on to some things sooner. I notice almost no difference, in less than 2 years time.
What am I doing to myself, as a parent? I’m creating unnecessary stress for myself. There are no glaring “issues” with the development of either of my children. They’re happy, healthy young people, who are meeting all of their milestones in the “normal” range. So what that my son still wears diapers! It’ll happen eventually and there’s no need to create additional drama and stress in our lives. As parents and adults we have enough things on our plates.
I can already see that my children are competitive with each other. They race to see who can get in their car seats faster and whoever wins gets an imaginary trophy. They also race to the front door or when playing in the front yard. If I promote a house where one is pitted against the other, or where we compare their performance to their friends, I am doing them no service. I have noticed that when my daughter can do something that my son can’t, he gets angry and directs that anger at his sister. If I encourage this competitiveness, I may end up doing harm to their relationship with each other as well as their self-esteem.
What will I do instead? I commit to setting goals for each of my children. For example, I ask that my son be at least partially potty trained by the start of school in the fall. He can go to school in a pull-up. I’m hoping that he sees his classmates using the toilet for pee and poop that peer pressure will kick in and will want to use the toilet. I will praise my children when they accomplish a new goal. They will get words of thanks and accomplishment. Finally, I commit to providing the support my children need to accomplish their goals. Whether it’s in school, extracurricular activities, or at home, I will give them whatever tools they need to help them attain their goals and I will be there with encouragement when they need the support.