Why not to compare children and what I do instead

Stay unique… and make your own mark!

As mothers, we start comparing our little ones, the very minute we conceive them. Understandably so, because as moms, we want to know whether we are on the right track, doing the right thing. And if we experience any sort of deviation from the normal, we start or continue to compare even more. Why? If you are anything like I am, its because I want to ace it… give it my best, be the best (or at least the closest possible to the best). Thankfully so far, I am not comparing my child to any other because I personally don’t like being compared to anyone. I don’t like that feeling and I’m grateful that my mom didn’t do that while raising me. However, coming from a culture where comparison and competition is still common, I did experience it nevertheless. But as a mom, I try my best to refrain from the tendency to compare my child to any other.


Having said that, I don’t live in a bubble. Sure, I am in touch with the world and its expectations. Instead of competing and comparing, I learn from my experiences and from the people around me. Although I don’t feel right about making direct comparisons, I do, however, use benchmarks and milestones. I have learnt to not obsess over them anymore because we are all unique and we need to value that about ourselves. EG: I remember my baby was not showing any interest in rolling over, scooting or crawling like other babies her age did but then she skipped a couple of milestones and started to stand and even walk in no time. That’s when I knew that my child is capable of knowing what she wants and focuses all her energy on achieving that goal. Ignorance is bliss for babies. Now, just because I don’t compare my child doesn’t mean that I believe in “lazy parenting”. (I’m not judging parents here but that term is a legitimate style of parenting now and I respect that). There’s nothing lazy about lazy parenting style but its not my style. I am a borderline helicopter parent who is trying hard to stay with the positives of that style of parenting. I do have great expectations from my child and those I have based on my knowledge and experience as an early childhood educator. And in my 12 years of experience in the field, I have consciously refrained from comparing my young students too. I, however, find ways to turn around those statements of comparisons.

So here’s how I do it and why:

When saying “Why can’t you be more like XYZ?”, we are blatantly telling our child, that he/she is not good enough. Instead, I can turn it around by looking into that specific trait or skill that XYZ exhibits. And if that is something I feel my child can benefit from, I will introduce that trait or skill to her. I would focus on the process of becoming, rather than the outcome and be a part of her learning journey. Play a responsible and equal part in that process rather than isolate her to reach the outcome and find a way to be like XYZ.

Every time we habitually or even casually praise someone else and then immediately follow it up by criticising our own child, we are making a direct comparison. On purpose or not, while doing so, we are not only damaging the bond we share with them but also the relationship they might have with the XYZ. This might lead to some passive aggression that gets projected toward the person criticising and also the person being praised. And this could cause some deep set emotional and social bruises for life where the child as an adult might have trouble appreciating the good in others because somewhere its gotten linked to their own self worth.


I would like my daughter to see the good around her and make her own decision of whether or not to imbibe that as a part of her individuality. When I say, “Did you see how XYZ did that? Would you like to do that?”, she learns that just because someone is good at something, doesn’t mean that she is not. And if she chooses to, she can do it too. That’s when I, as her mom, am all in, for setting her up for success. This is a positive mindset at work and I would like her to internalise this mindset to function and succeed in the competitive jungle out there. Praising someone doesn’t need to have a toxic effect on her personality. In fact, when I praise someone else, I am bringing her to notice the good around, making suggestions, and even sharing my personal preferences about what I like and what I don’t. Now as she’s turning 4 soon, there are times, I even highlight the not-so-good things around and gently guide her to make the right choices. Most of the times, she does get the difference between good and bad choices.


And when she makes her choices, I would like her to make it for herself, because she finds it right. Not because she wants to please me or anyone else. We tend to make comparisons because we want to motivate our children to succeed and be like or better than an XYZ. But somewhere this teaches the child to follow a herd rather than be their own uniquely productive self. Following a herd mentality also teaches a child that we have to be a part of the group, come what may. So, what happens when my daughter encounters a group of people making poor choices together? Does that make it right? That’s why I like to emphasise to her that just because someone is making poor choices, we don’t have to join in, even if it’s a friend we like or a lot of friends we might want to be liked by. We need to use our own beautiful mind to make good choices because we find it right. And its amazing how she’s able to make those choices… again, most of the times.

Children are much more capable than we think they are. We need to give them more credit for that, at least I do. Their minds absorb like sponge…the way we speak to them and speak about them gets internalised in them overtime and we should choose to look at that as a big plus point.

Speaking of capability, my child has her own interests and abilities which I, as her mom, need to encourage and facilitate. I try really hard not to enforce my own interests on her. I also try hard not to make her take up a skill just because everyone is doing it. Again, following the herd mentality can be counter productive. I not only respect her personal interests but also keep the expectations realistic. Let’s face it, trying to achieve something that one isn’t interested in and is not capable of, can only lead to frustration and stress. She rather be frustrated and stressed learning something that she actually wants to be good at. That kind of stress is good because those frustrations and mistakes only make one better.


This brings me to the aspect that’s so very important when my daughter is succeeding or even failing forward : LOVE, unconditional love, at all times. I always make it a point to appreciate her choices, her efforts and her struggles, however big or small. That doesn’t mean I don’t get disappointed when she makes poor choices. And I rightfully express that disappointment to her by saying “I love you a lot and I always will. I am feeling sad right now because I am disappointed in your choices. I know that you can do better than that! How can we make this better?” Right there, was love that’s unconditional, real feelings that are momentary consequences, faith in her abilities which didn’t reflect in her current choice, a confident resolve to fix it as a team. This routine keeps her more grounded and motivated to be her best, than me having to make comparisons. This is about her, and only her. We talk about her choices and their consequences while speaking of her and her only. She learns that she is capable of making better choices, by herself and for herself . This is a personal growth mindset that focuses on her and her alone.

Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And that line has stayed with me for years. Comparison does take away the fun of learning to discover and be the best version of ourselves. If we do have to compare, let’s compare us to ourselves as we challenge ourselves to learn and grow for life!

I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry for being a mean mum from time to time.

Motherhood changes everything. PERIOD! Being in-charge of raising another human is not just a huge responsibility but it is also an overwhelming experience. It has those “Awwww” moments along with those “Ughhhh” moments. It has moments of pride, it has moments of guilt, it has moments of frustrations. And I have come to realise that the best way of dealing with this roller-coaster of emotions is to accept and embrace every moment and the emotion it brings along. There was a time when my last thoughts before falling asleep every night used to be around what I should wear to work the next day and what are the things I could do to enhance my teaching skills at work. I used to doze off thinking about what would happen on the next episode of “This is Us” and here I am now, sleeping every night, doing a mental self assessment of myself as a mum. Did I give it my best? Did I enjoy my “awwww” moments? How did I respond to the “ughhhh” moments? Did I raise my voice? Did I mistreat my little one in the whole quest of disciplining her? Did I loose my cool when she threw a tantrum? Could I have been more patient with her? Did I feed her well today? Did she get to eat a variety of foods from the different food groups? At the end of this self created questionnaire, I simply reassure myself that tomorrow will be a new day, a new chapter, and yet another chance to try and be the best version of myself as a mum, as a human.

Amidst all of this, I have come to the conclusion that although I have this amazingly close and loving bond with my little one, I can be super mean to her every now and then! And I’m cool with that! Is that bad? I don’t think so, not as of now! But I bet my little one thinks so, although as a 2 year old, she hasn’t developed that realisation yet. I can so see her growing up to realise this “mean streak” in her mum and someday she is going to tell me how I invariably end up ruining all the fun for her, all the time. And although she might see it that way, I am okay with that as long as I am serving the goal of raising a decent human being, with a strong character and grounded moral values. This stuff is important to me and I need her to value it too. Just because I’m a “no nonsense” kind of mean mum at times (ok, many a times), I don’t think I’m a bad mum.

For example: I can seem mean when I don’t always play with my little one. Don’t get me wrong, but I do a whole lot of fun activities with her and I do goof around with her by being all silly from time to time. And I enjoy every bit of it. I even let her play in the rain although somewhere I’m worried that she might catch a cold. I try to keep my own OCD issues aside, when she is having some messy fun of her own. But there are also times, when I don’t want to play with her and I simply say NO, NOT NOW! And that’s fine, because although she might think I’m being a fun spoiler for her, I feel that I’m giving her a real world experience then and there. I need her to learn that in the real world, not everyone is going to comply with her needs. I need her to understand that everyone has a right to say yes or no depending on their own desires. I want her to respect this need that everyone has just as much as she expects everyone to respect and comply with her own needs. Life is about give and take and we don’t always get what we want, and when we want. She needs to learn to deal with whatever emotions such a situation brings her way. And it rather start early, and start at home – in the safety and comfort of her own people.

Another scenario that brings out the mean mum in me is when it is time for my little one to clean up her play things. I have this strong need for cleanliness and organisation. I can’t stand any sort of mess for long. In fact, I have rubbed off this quality onto my little one as well. She is generally is clean freak too but when she’s busy playing, she can get very messy. It’s a typical toddler thing and I respect that when it is her free play time. But once she’s done, she needs to clean up her mess. Maybe it is too early for her to learn this but I am consciously teaching her to play in an organised fashion. Like taking one toy at a time and putting it away before bringing out the next one. But she doesn’t get that and I’m willing to wait until she does. However, at the end of it all, she has to clear out the mess – she can choose to take her own sweet time, she can pretend to ignore my instructions, or even throw a dramatic tantrum over it. But she does have to clean up, period! There are times I wait patiently as I sing along and make the whole cleaning up process all about fun. And there are times I yell out my orders and throw a loud tantrum myself, to get the job done as soon as possible. I need her to realise her responsibilities and what is expected out of her. If I don’t insist that she is capable of doing this, she would never realise that she in fact is capable of doing it. And trust me, she is doing a good job at it and I hope this lasts. She is not just learning the concept of responsibilities and time, but she is even learning about consequences in the bargain. Like my silent treatment when she’s not behaved appropriately e.g., she accepts it graciously and knows exactly what called for it. She even tries to not repeat that behaviour in the future which is a big learning I believe. Yes sometimes, she will be adamant and repeat the same behaviour and just like her, I would repeat my reaction as well. That’s when she realises the existence of a concept called consistency which is very important when it comes to disciplining a toddler. Consistency in rewards and praise as well as in punishments and silent treatments. And by now she knows what to expect from me and most of the times, behaves appropriately. This is her window of opportunity to learn about complying with societal norms. And if she doesn’t want to do the time, then she shouldn’t do the crime.

Again, don’t get me wrong, I do give her umpteen number of chances to goof up, test her boundaries and test my patience. That’s also a crucial part of growing up after all… “to know when to stop”. And after she is done exploring those “chances”, she’s get “ONE LAST CHANCE”. If she doesn’t get her act together in those chances, guess what! She has to deal with something called “consequences”. That’s when my “enough is enough” look surfaces and “the no nonsense mum” in me takes over. A lot of the times, this involves me “yelling”! I feel awfully terrible when I do that but I still do. But again, that doesn’t make me a bad mum. If anything, I’m a real mum, an authentic mum who is not putting up a façade or pretence of any kind. She needs to learn that her mum is just as human as she is. Just like she gets to behave or misbehave in the comfort and security of her own home, so does her mum. This is another opportunity for her to see how I feel as a mum, each time she yells and screams to get what she wants. And hopefully, she learns how unpleasant and how unproductive yelling is and begins to control her own tantrums too. When I apologise after I yell at her, she learns something too. She learns the value of productive communication and how to do some damage control after making errors. We are all humans… and need to learn from each other. We need to respect each other and learn to coexist in a harmonious manner. And trust me, I can see her imbibing all of this, even though she’s so little. She knows that I love her to the moon and back but at the same time she knows that she has to do her bit as well. I also make it a point to highlight that it is her behaviour that I’m judging and holding up for accountability, not her as a person. She is a beautiful person and I can’t say that enough!

So yeah, here I am! To a third person, or even my own family at times, I might seem like a mean and yeller kind of mum, but hopefully someday they will get to see why I am, the way I am. And someday, my little one too will see the value in what I did and why. I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry!