Parenting by Comparison may not be a phrase you have heard before but it is likely you have seen examples of this type of parenting on a daily basis. “Why can’t you be like …” parenting is not only a danger for those who have more than one child, it is a danger for all parents. Comparing our children to others and measuring them by that rule is a recipe for disaster. Whether we are in a line at a supermarket or looking at a school report we need to refrain from measuring our children against others.
Our children have always liked to stand back to back and compare heights. They are now at the stage where they are taller than me and delight in telling me how much shorter I am than them. The “height” chart that we are speaking about however is not the one that measures how much the child has grown over the last few months but it is the measure of character, of achievement in school or on the field. We are part of a competitive society which stresses the need to run faster, be smarter and attain much more than others.
Many parents use comparison parenting in an effort to motivate children to achieve. While it is not wrong to set goals for our children, these goals should be realistic and attainable. When we compare our children with their siblings and friends we ignore the fact that God made each one of us unique. Ephesians 6:4 tells us the result of heavy handed parenting, “Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master“. We frustrate our children when we push them instead of leading them. It might seem like a simple statement but it is a deep truth.
Too many adults carry with them a huge burden. They have been told all their lives that “if you were like John then …” or “if you would try to be like Rachel then …” the result is that many adults still feel like children who have never been accepted for who they are. The underlying message that children receive when they hear comparisons is “your not quite right”, “you didn’t turn out to be the child I wanted” “you are wrong”. Is it surprising then that many adults have inferiority complexes so great they are incapable of leading a normal family life?
We need to give our children the clear message that they are loved and accepted as they are, and that God has made them unique because He has a special purpose for their lives. Proverbs 15:4 “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit“. Clearly our tongue can be used in two ways, to heal or to crush. I remember the day I realized the huge mistake I was making in the way I parented. A visiting speaker at our church talked about avoiding “shame-based discipline” I asked our son how he felt when I disciplined him he said “I feel that you are an elephant and I am an ant”. I was shocked that the blows of my words had such a terrible effect, I cried and asked forgiveness and he willingly and quickly forgave.
1 Thessalonians 2 11-12 explains how we should deal with our children. “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” God has given us a wonderful opportunity to encourage our children, to build them up and not tear them down. Providing comforting arms in their disappointments rather than pushing them away. Our measure of success should be if our children grow into adults who live lives worthy of God.
By Lainey Hitchman
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