Why it’s Dangerous to Compare your Kids to their Peers
Sometimes as parents, we want to know that our kids are doing well with their education. The easiest way is to compare our kids to their peers, but this is perhaps the most dangerous thing of all.
By comparing your child's progress to that of their peers, you are discounting the important fact that your child is completely unique - and learns, understands and navigates their education in a very different way.
It's a common thing to do. As social creatures, we like to compare ourselves against those around us to determine our social standing, what we need to do to be better and how we can appear more appealing to those around us. I've often compared myself to my friend, and often compared my children to my friend's kids. Instead of focusing on what my family needs, I begin to fixate on what other homeschool families are accomplishing. I notice all the areas in which my children are lacking rather than acknowledging the progress they have made.
It's a never-ending spiral and something I would not recommend. Take it from having five girls with completely different learning speeds, styles and ability. Here's why encouraging your child and their own way of learning is essential.
What does "comparing your kids" mean?
The standard Oxford dictionary definition for the word compare is to "estimate, measure, or note the similarity or dissimilarity between."
When you compare your child's progress, intelligence, ability, speed of learning or any other qualities with another child, you are denying their capability for uniqueness and creativity.
If all children were the same, we would have no Einsteins or Leonardo da Vincis, no INXS Michael Hutchence or talented musicians, no directors, artists, leaders or politicians of any worth. We would have a society that is all the same, plain and simple. No one would ever say anything that wasn't said before, and everything would look exactly the same. Doesn't that sound boring??!!
It's a dramatic picture to paint, but I make my point clearly. As parents, when we encourage our children to be themselves, we are supporting the next leaders of our generation. We are inspiring the next artists, musicians and Ted Talk show hosts. If we focus on what our child loves to do and encourage their natural skills and abilities, we are supporting our children to be their authentic selves. It's an important concept that often gets missed in today's competitive society.
4 Reasons Why it's Dangerous to Compare your Kids
Here's a few important reasons why it's dangerous to compare your kids, and why I've decided to make sure I don't fall into this often-unconscious habit! Jennifer shares her comparison habits and what changed them below:
1. Places Unhealthy Pressure on your Kids
One of the greatest dangers of comparison is that it places unhealthy pressure on our kids. Homeschooling becomes driven by the successes of others rather than the needs of our own children.
I remember when one of my daughters was five years old. Her friends were already reading while my daughter struggled to recognise letter names and sounds. The fear of having an adult child who couldn’t read gripped me. Surely, I was failing at teaching my own child. I tried forcing her to endure hours of phonics lessons, but all my efforts only ended in frustration and failure. My daughter began to feel stupid. She was aware of my obsession to have her reading like her friends, and she was even more aware of her in-ability to meet my demands.
It was then that I realised what I had done! I backed off on phonics lessons until my daughter was ready. It would be another two years before my daughter was able to read but she never again felt behind in her reading skills. I stopped comparing her to others and began to focus on how I could help her grow and learn at her own pace.
2. Creates Extra Stress for You
Another danger of constantly comparing your kids is that it creates unnecessary stress for us as parents. We have enough to do when it comes to caring for our family. It is not beneficial to add more stress to our lives by trying to keep our house as organised, our kids as well-behaved, and our homeschool as exciting as the other homeschool families we know or see on social media.
It's important to remember that no mum is perfect! One mum’s area of weakness is another mum’s area of strength. Your homeschool mum friend who has an immaculate home most definitely struggles in some other areas of her life. We often piece together the strengths of other homeschool mums to create an image in our heads of a super-woman who does not exist in reality. It is only when we stop comparing our homeschool process to others that we can begin to enjoy our own family’s unique homeschool journey.
3. It Leaves you Feeling Defeated
Comparing our homeschool to others either fuels our pride or leaves us defeated. I remember a season of homeschooling when things were running pretty smoothly for me. As I looked around at other homeschool mums, I began to notice that I seemed to be accomplishing more in my homeschool than they were. My pride was quickly puffed up and I began to judge others who weren’t living up to my homeschool successes.
This season was followed quickly by a difficult season of homeschooling. As I continued to compare my homeschool to others, I became defeated. Other mums were surpassing me in making school time enjoyable for their kids. I felt like a failure as a homeschool mum.
To combat this cycle of pride and defeat, we need to abandon our very human tendency to compare and instead, cultivate an environment where homeschool mums can build each other up. There are great benefits in having a community of fellow homeschooling mums who are there to encourage us in our challenging seasons of homeschooling.
4. Distracts you from What's Really Important
Comparing our children to others distracts us from what is really important. We get dragged down rabbit trails, chasing after what other homeschool families are doing, instead of pursuing the goals we have for our own family.
It is important to remember why you are homeschooling your children in the first place. It helps to write out a mission statement for your homeschool. Then, when you are contemplating changing curriculum or determining whether an outside activity is right for your family, you can turn to your mission statement. If the curriculum or activity is not going to aid you in reaching your family’s goals, then you can turn it down with confidence.
Homeschool or child comparison shifts our focus away from our family and what is important. We must focus on the progress we are making and recognise that there are flaws in every homeschool. This allows us to cultivate an environment where we can build each other up as fellow homeschool mums and focus on what is important for our own family.
When is it a good thing to compare your kids progress?
When you are keeping track of your child's individual progress and checking to see where they are up to and what they know, comparison is a great tool to use. By knowing what scores, marks or ratings your child has achieved, you can easily see where they are at and what you can do to further support their learning.
However, be aware of pushing your children too hard. We all know the story of the demanding father and son, or the critical mother and daughter. Placing intense pressure on our children to "always be better" than they were before also doesn't support them. Often children have a variety of reasons why they are distracted, concerned or focused on something else that means they may not perform better than last time.
Remember, it's the journey that counts. Especially as a homeschool parent, you create your child's entire life and their experiences. You can use that responsibility in a way that builds your kids into powerful, creative adults.
Check your child's maths understanding
So you can get a clear picture of what your child knows about maths, and what you can do to support them in their learning journey, we've created an online diagnostic test.
The online diagnostic test follows a series of questions picked from basic maths to advanced concepts and tests your child's understanding. You'll get a clear snapshot of what your child knows and what they don't know.
Remember, keep an eye out and watch them as they progress through the questions. If they are finger counting or struggle with understanding Place Value, start with the foundational Alpha level to give your child the tools to understand maths in a powerful way.
I've used this program for all my five girls, from preschool to high school maths. Even when they ended up attending state school, my daughters were well ahead of everyone else in their class, and they understood maths concepts confidently. It was the best choice for me to teach them maths, coming from a nursing background, because the program is so easy to teach.
Here's the free online diagnostic test: