With over eight years of writing and researching experience, Grace specializes in debunking commonly held myths about family psychology.
THE MAJORITY OF PARENTS COMPARE ONE CHILD TO ANOTHER
USING COMPARISON TO GET CHILDREN TO MODIFY WHAT IS CONSIDERED TO BE ERRANT BEHAVIOR
COMPARISON AS A TOOL FOR CONFORMITY
COMPARING ONE CHILD TO ANOTHER CAUSES LOW SELF-ESTEEM AND A SENSE OF WORTHLESSNESS
Why DON'T You Be More Like............
Each child is unique in his/her own self. Many parents subscribe to this notion-well, verbally that is. In actuality, only a few, enlightened parents practice this philosophy regarding their children. It is de rigueur for parents to compare one child to another although they are loathe to admit this.
Many children are often compared to other children by their parents. Although parents verbally talk about each child should be his/her own individual person, they subconsciously want their child to be like his/her siblings. They inculcate their child to conform as there are more benefits to being liking his/her siblings than to stand out alone. They maintain that to be a nonconformist and/or individualist can be quite arduous and daunting to say the least.
There are parents who assert that there are myriad benefits, rewards, and a feeling of security when the child conforms to the construct of the particular family unit. If the child conforms to a particular construct, life is much easier and less obstructive. However, if the child elects not to conform, then this is viewed as quite problematic and threatening. So they will institute methodologies to get the child to conform in one way or another.
One method parents employ to persuade a child to conform is comparing one child to his/her siblings. They often compare one child to a sibling/siblings in order to get the more problematic child to be more of what the parents deem to be more appropriate behavior. Each family has a construct of what is considered to be appropriate behavior. Children who conform to their parents' expectations are often rewarded and sometimes held as an example for their siblings to emulate and/or follow. Conversely, children who do not conform to the aforementioned expectations are persuaded to conform in one way or another.
By comparing the less conforming child to the more conforming sibling, it is hoped by the parent that the child will get into line and be more agreeable. In many families, there are tangible and intangible constructs whether it is characteristics, beliefs, ideologies, personalities, and/or other factors which is considered to be more positive while others are considered to quite negative. For example, an artistic, sensitive boy may be compared to his brother, a tougher, athletic boy by his father. According to the father, for males being tough and athletic is considered to be masculine while being artistic and sensitive is considered to be downright effeminate. So this father routinely compares his artistic son to his athletic son hoping that the former man and/or toughen up.
Parents not only compare their children to their siblings. If the child does not have any siblings, they are compared to their cousins and non-related children such as friends, classmates, neighbors, and other associates who have the characteristics which the parents deem to be more appropriate and/or desirable. Comparisons are made when one child is deemed to be more negative in relation to another child.
The child who is compared is often at odds with the parents in one way or another. He/she is considered to be quite the odd child out. He/she clearly possess something that the parents considered to be subpar and/or unacceptable. He/she is clearly being or doing something that the parents does not like. In fact, he/she clearly perplexes his/her parents to the ultimate degree. Clearly, the parents are unhappy with this child and wishes that he/she changes his/her ways more to the parents and/or family's expectations.
There are some children by their personalities are completely out of sync and/or are incongruent to that to the rest of the family. While few parents accept their children's very unique individuality, there are many more who believe that their child's unique personality is a threat to them and the rest of the family. So they compare this child to their more acceptable sibling, cousin, and/or other nonrelated children hoping that their so-called odd child become more normal and not so out there.
Many parents compare their children because in their estimation and belief, they want the best for them. Such parents want their children to be happy and accepted. They know that there is comfort and security by conforming to the status quo whether it is family or societal. They also realize that there are perks and rewards in conforming to those characteristics which the family and/or societal deem to be more positive.
Such parents maintain that by comparing the less desirable child to his/her more desirable sibling/siblings, the less desirable child will see the errors of his/her ways and shape up to become a useful member of the family and/or society. Also, they do not want their children to be the odd one out because life is difficult and often harsh to those who are nonconformists and/or possess characteristics which the society consider to be less positive. For example, a mother may compare her introverted daughter to a more extroverted classmate with the purpose of getting the former out of her introversion. The mother considers the daughter's introversion in a negative light which she believes will hinder the daughter in life.
These parents staunchly believe that people should conform to societal construct and that those who persists on being individualistic will have a difficult time in this world. They believe that by comparing the less appropriate/desirable child to the other more appropriate/desirable one, it will help the former to conform and adopt more pleasing behavior mechanisms. They maintain that children are to adopt to the prevailing societal consensus as this is the type of behavior that will be rewarded. They further assert that children who persist in behaviors which societal consider to be different and strange will be scorned, stigmatized, and/or ostracized in one way or another. They figure that they must inculcate their children to conform to the parental/familial standards as early as possible.
However, there is downside in constantly being compared to other children. Many children who are incessantly compared to other siblings develop low self-esteem. They believe that themselves to be totally insignificant. They feel that the others are better and more significant than they are. They furthermore believe themselves to be failures, no longer believing that they are capable of undertaking tasks and fulfilling their talents.
As a result of their low self-esteem and self-confidence, they are unable to stand up for and/or defend themselves. They do not feel comfortable in their own skins. This makes them totally susceptible to stronger and more powerful children in addition to being the target of bullies. Many of these children are afraid to attempt and/or try anything different and/or new, fearing that they will fail. Oftentimes, as a result of being forced to conform by their parents via being compared to another child, he/she often stays within the tried and true parameters, often becoming highly fearful and risk aversive. There are other such children who attach themselves to stronger and powerful children in a bid to gain their self-esteem vicariously through the latter. Still others become people pleasers to gain the acceptance that they did not receive from their parents.
Then there are those who refuse to conform to the family consensus of what they should be. They figure that if their parents cannot accept them for who they are, they will find other positive adult role models who will do such. They also learn to be their own support system and develop a life independent of that from their parents and/or other family members. Sometimes such children sever relationships with their parents and/or siblings when they become financially independent as they have found positive and nurturing support systems elsewhere.
In conclusion, it is a rare family where children are not compared to each other. The average family practices the art of comparison i.e. comparing one child to another. Many parents maintain that they do this just to persuade the so-called errant child to conform to the more positive characteristics of the family and/or societal unit. However, there are downsides to this constant comparison such as low self-esteem which leads a child to feel powerless and insignificant. Comparing one child to another is an insidious practice. Each child is unique and beautiful in his/her way. Parents ought to realize this thereby accepting, encouraging, and nurturing each child's individual characteristics and talents.
© 2013 Grace Marguerite Williams
LR on September 12, 2014:
Sometimes children become arrogant and cruel that they put down others who they think are less than they are when compared by their parents to siblings.
Galadriel Arwen from USA on December 30, 2013:
This is a good Hub. Self esteem in children should not depend on how they rate against another person, but on how they rate in their own improvement according to their ability. I always told my children [as a teacher and parent] that they were made by God. God does not make mistakes so they were not an accident or mistake by any one person. They were supposed to be here. The only thing they needed to do was to discover what special gift was given to them. Something they had inside themselves that God had given only them. Once they found their special gift, they would shine in the glow of what they were meant to be.
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on February 13, 2013:
Thank you for your response.
Donnetta Williams from jacksonville on February 13, 2013:
As individuals we would never like to be compared to others. I myself will admit that I have fallen victim to this with others around me as well as with myself. It's a moment whereas you have to catch yourself and think before speaking or taking any action. My daughter however is somewhat different and doesn't fall victim to bullies but act out in a very defensive way when being compared to someone else especially among her own peers. Great article very interesting and useful.
Grace Marguerite Williams (author) from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York on February 01, 2013:
Thank you Minima for your insightful response.
MINIMA from New Zealand on February 01, 2013:
Being a parent myself I know how most parents compare their children to one another. I do not like this idea at all and try tell other parents as well. I have never compared my children to each other... they are each an individual with different tastes , mentality and interests. During my 21 yers of teaching I have taught siblings from the same family and would always oppose the parents if they tend to compare the elder one to second one and third one..... just let them be and do not force them into something which the other one has done... in one you as parents are yourself making the child feel low and withdrawn. ... treat them equal andmake each one of them wanted as they are not as what they want.