By: St. Khadijah Kitta
“Parents always want their children to be the best” this sentence is certainly a positive thing desired by most parents. But one thing that is often forgotten is that to be the best requires a standard. The question is whose standards are used by most parents? Your child or other children?
If we use the standard other children such as the achievements of their peers or the achievements of their siblings, it is not uncommon for this to encourage parents to compare children with other children. Comparing is a general approach that is often used to encourage children’s performance, especially in academic matters at school, such as comparing grades, skills, and others. This can make parents forget that each child is different and has the uniqueness of each, in terms of talents, interests, weaknesses, or strengths that children have.
Discussing the matter of comparison, it turns out that comparing oneself is a natural thing that children will do when they start school (Chafel, J.A., 1985). The purpose of this was so that children are able to know themselves better because by comparing themselves with other children, a child will be able to evaluate their abilities and to know themselves more thoroughly (Festinger, 1954).
However, the natural process experienced by children in comparing themselves with others is not viewed as a competition but as a self-reflection. It is different when parents or teachers compare a child with another child, aiming that their child can change and enter competitive situations with other children. It turns out that there are some effects that can be presented from the process of comparing a child’s self with others that need to be known by parents, such as (Being The Parent.Com, 2017):
1. Stress the child, this effect is caused by the burden of being compared that is affecting the child.
2. Lower self-esteem, the comparison given will convince children if others are better than themselves.
3. Lower self-regard, caused by the low appreciation of the child’s effort which leads the child to follow the performance of other children which, on the contrary, may destroy the child’s own confidence.
4. Shy away from social situations, because the child experienced reduction and ridicule from the comparison provided.
5. Build a careless attitude, because children feel that parents are happy with other children who are more achievers than the child, therefore he/she will not care about making his/her parents feel happy.
6. Suppresses talents, the parent will lead the child to do activities that are not suited with their real talents because the parent wishes their child to be something else rather than being themselves.
7. Distanced from parents, caused by parents who always compare children with siblings, cousins, and friends will make the child feel unaccepted by his/her parents. Therefore, the feelings of insecurity and mistrust will be presented from the child toward his/her parents and drive the child away from the parents.
8. Foster sibling rivalry, when parents continue to compare a child with his/her siblings, this can lead a child to hate his/her own siblings.
Besides the impact it gave on a family situation, research showed that most of the time social comparison is often experienced by the child in the school environment. The comparison given to a child in the social environment will make them enter a competitive situation within their social environment. This may cause several effects, such as it can make children frustrated in the classroom with a very competitive condition, it can also bring anxiety to the child and will demotivate the child in achieving success (Chafel, J.A., 1984).
This paper might also be a source of information for parents and teachers to realize the differences between children and their uniqueness. Also, to encourage parents and teachers not to push the child too hard and keep comparing themselves. Instead, it is essential for parents and teachers to help children realize their potential and uniqueness. The standard that needs to be set is the child’s own self so that the child can develop their optimal potential and become the best version of each child’s self.
Some children have talent in art, there are also extraordinary children who master in language skill. There are children who are great at calculations, and there are those who have extraordinary speaking skills and thousands of unique children out there with thousands more extraordinary skills. It is important to realize that every person has a chance to improve themselves according to their potential and the realization of his/her potential is one of the few sources to reach well-being and happiness in life (Seligman and Csikszentminhalyi, in Jorgensen and Hilde (2005). Thus, parents or teachers need to support children to flourish according to their potential in their own respective ways.
In conclusion, we can simply encourage children by saying that “you do not have to be the best in class or among your social environment as long as you do as best as you can”.
Being The Parent.Com (2017). Stop Comparing Your Child with Others. https://www.beingtheparent.com/stop-comparing-your-child/
Chafel, J.A. (1985). Social comparison and the young child: Current research issues. Early Child Development and Care. (21) (1–3) (35–59).
Chafel, J.A. (1985). Social comparisons by young children in classroom contexts. Early Child Development and Cate. (14) (1–2) (109–124).
Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations. (7) (117–140).
Jorgensen, I. S., & Hilde, E.N. (2005). Posotive Psychology: Historical, Philosophical, and Epistemological Perspective. Tidsskrift for Norsk Psykologforening. Norwegia: (42) (885–889)