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Last week a relative visited us. He sat interacting with my daughter while I prepared tea for him. Coincidentally his daughter is a few months younger to mine. I could hear him shoot questions to my four-year-old. It began with alphabets, followed by numbers and then colours. The child could answer some of them. There were many she was clueless about.
The relative then took the opportunity to tell my daughter how his child, despite being younger to her, knew much more. He went on to say that since she was older, she was expected to know the answers to all. I realized that the question game which seemed fun and exciting initially was just a ruse to compare the kids.
Parents perceive comparison between children healthy. Comparing their strengths and weaknesses and then putting them up on a pedestal has become the norm. Adulation and appreciation for the ‘stronger’ child and criticism for the ‘weaker’ child are deemed beneficial. The stronger child is expected to strive higher and become better. She is her own benchmark. The weaker on the other hand has to cope with the denigration and work towards the benchmark – the ‘stronger’ child.
The concepts of superiority and inferiority are thus, firmly ingrained at a very tender age. The parents end up reinforcing that every child is different. Rather one is either superior or inferior to the other. The concept of equality is lost.
‘Every child is unique’, holds good theoretically. The constant comparison and the setting of benchmark ruin it all.
Such comparisons do have a detrimental effect not just on the ‘inferior’ child, but also on the ‘superior’ child. As the ‘inferior’ child is subjected to continuous criticism, she/he grows up on an unhealthy dose of negative criticism leading to low self-esteem, anger management issues and often behavioural problems. The supposedly ‘superior’ child is continuously held up as an example worth following, thus putting unnecessary pressure on performance and achievement. A false sense of worth derived from putting down others is what the child might attain. The insecurities are high as the expectations are also higher. These insecurities coupled with the fear of failure mar them in future. Both these categories of children are susceptible to depression and suicides later on.
The scope of healthy interaction between the children is messed up. Peer groups are formed not on the basis of liking for each other or mutual interests, but on the basis of ‘equals mixing with equals’ leading to discrimination amongst children. Such a mentality also gives rise to bullying tendencies amongst them.
The onus is once again on the parents for ensuring a healthy environment for the kids. One has to understand that every child is different. Not everyone excels in academics. Academics should never be the sole criterion to judge an individual.
Do not JUDGE. None of the parents has the authority to judge anyone.
Do not COMPARE. What begins as a simple lesson of teaching the child through a comparison becomes vicious later on. “See X is good in studies. Even you have to be good.” This has to stop. Explain why one has to study, the benefits that could be derived if one studies diligently. Comparison can never be a tool for evaluation. It has never done well to anyone.
Rather help the child in identifying their strengths and weaknesses. Assist them in developing their strengths and coping with their weaknesses. Do not use another individual as a benchmark. There are none, I tell you. Let the child develop his own benchmark.
Lastly, let’s create a child-friendly environment by becoming child-friendly.
Image source: Pixabay
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Sreemati Sen Karmakar holds a Masters in Social Work (MSW) From Visva Bharati, Shantiniketan. She
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