Comparative Parenting

Somehow parenting has become a war. And because of the nature of this kind of war, most of us are losing. The culprit behind it all is comparison. As a result, friendly fire and turncoats are common in the war of raising children. We’re sisters in Christ, and we don’t mean to damage each other, but when we compare, there are casualties, and it makes me so sad.

From the moment you get pregnant, you start asking for advice from other moms. You take the good and the bad and make a mental list of the things you want to do with your children, the kind of mom you want to be, and the kind of kids your kids WILL be.

Then your child comes into the world and you . . . compare.

You compare with statistics the doctors give you, other little ones at church or in your community, and you compare with books. And thus beings the cycle of comparison.

Jane’s daughter walked at 9 months, so my baby should walk by then.

Suzie’s son says ten words; mine only says two.

Amy’s daughter can recite all of the books of the Bible. Mine can’t even pronounce “Bible”.

And the other side of the coin is just as ugly.

My son knew his alphabet at 18 months.

My daughter always says please and thank you.

My son never pushes.

I have a friend whose daughter, to me, is a challenge. She talks back, is willful and does things that I think are just mean-spirited. It drives me crazy. One day when I was praying for my friend (that God would let her see the error of her parenting), I felt the Holy Sprit tell me: Kristin Lynn, you have no idea what goes on in their home. You are not her parent; you do not know how that child learns. It is not your place to comment on things you were not asked to.

I hate when the Holy Spirit is right. (Kidding!)

I know a lot of moms and they all parent differently. There are moms who are very hands-on and run on a tight schedule, and moms who are insanely laid back and give the more structured parents panic attacks. Neither is a better parent. Neither is right or wrong. We are all just doing our best for our kids. And that is commendable.

In my personal experience, sometimes the way your kid responds and grows has less to do with you and more to do with his or her own personality. I am not negating parenting. I think that exposing your children to as many tools as possible to become productive adults is not only amazing but necessary. What I am saying is, like adults, all children respond differently, so comparing parenting and children is counterproductive and damaging.

These kinds of thoughts — or even words — are what I’m talking about:

Well, So-and-So does it this way so I am obviously doing it wrong and now my kid is going to be a serial killer.

Or . . .

My child would never do that. I have all the answers.

You. Do. Not.

What you have is pride.

The first parent is so concerned about the way her child looks that she fears she is doing something wrong and doesn’t want to be judged. The root of that fear is pride.

And the second parent thinks she knows best. But let me tell you something. Be careful. Anything can happen. You might just not know best in the end.

By judging ourselves or others and comparing between the two, we cause division. We are not good enough or they are not good enough. And that is not what God has called us to. We are to be in community, loving, serving and honoring each other. Not picking apart every one else.

Humility is an essential part of parenting. I humbly ask other parents for advice. I repent when I secretly judge another.

And I give myself GRACE.

I am not super mom. I lean heavily on my ten year old for help (he is currently playing with the littles while I write this). I do not do crafts with my children. My kids do not eat organic or gluten free. My kids do not have cloth diapers. I rarely do play dates. I almost never take my kids to the park or zoo or learning whatever. And I am short with them — often.

I do give more hugs than necessary, say “I love you” often, apologize more than I care to admit, listen to every ridiculous story about video games or princesses, or rambling nonsense. And I read to my kids, because it’s kinda my thing. Am I doing everything right?

Probably not.

Are you?

2 Corinthians 10:12, “ Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.”

Have the understanding that the only opinion, advice, and approval you need to be seeking is God’s.

So let’s call a truce. No more comparative parenting. Let’s trade our pride for humility and our judgment for grace. Have grace for yourself and, most importantly, have grace for others. All of us, with our hair a mess, no make-up on, food stains on our clothes, in need of a good night’s sleep and a shower – we are all running toward the same finish line.

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3 Responses to Comparative Parenting

  1. Keli Lydell says:

    Ah, Kristin, you are wise beyond your years! I wish you had been around to advise me when my kids were little! I often felt like I was doing a bad job. Comparison can be so destructive to our hearts. You are so right, we are all struggling along the same path with all of our strengths & all of our weaknesses & we all need the holy spirit everyday! May we all have grace for each other and ourselves. Well done! I love you, dear one!

  2. Faith Gong says:

    Amen, sister! Thank you for your words. I’m waving my white flag of truce right now!

  3. Lyndsay Wilkin says:

    I hope pre-parents get this as well! Those of us who look at our friends with kids and think “MY kid will NEVER be like that” are just as guilty in this destructive, divisive comparative parenting thing. Thanks for this article, Kristin!

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