Comparison is the Thief of Joy Why not to compare your child? - A School Principal shares her experience
As Theodore Roosevelt aptly put: Comparison is the thief of joy
We all accept the fact that all children are unique and they inhibit certain talents but still unconsciously we keep comparing our children with others.
A few months ago when it was time for school admissions, a student who had written the entrance exam for 6th grade had performed unsatisfactorily for the class level applied. I asked the parents to meet me with the child. The parents came along with the child and her sister who has just completed her NEET Exams. I asked the child, “What is your name?” She replied, “My name is Sanjana", in a very feeble voice. There was a lot of fear in her eyes and she was feeling very uncomfortable to speak. I understood and didn’t probe about her performance in the school entrance or the previous report. No child or anyone for that matter would feel good about creating a bad impression while meeting for the first time.
I looked at the parents and asked them the reason for shifting the school, a generic question to understand the situation and analyze. The parents started replying with reasons for shift and the bad performance of the child. I could observe in Sanjana’s mother that she was constantly praising her elder daughter for her good academics and criticizing Sanjana for everything. She showed me her previous school's progress report. The report revealed that Sanjana has constantly shown lesser performance than the previous one. It was taunting as well as comparing.
Comparing seems to be a part of human nature. We compare ourselves with others, our spouse with another's spouse, and our child with other children. Comparing a fitness regime would be beneficial to the body but comparing a child will only lower their self-esteem and hurt feelings of the child.
I understood what was happening and gave her the admission.
A few months after Sanjana joined our school, the teachers started complaining about her poor performance and wanted to know why such a low performer was given admission. I called a meeting with all her teachers and ensured that the child has all the attributes of a good learner but she is unable to perform due to low self-esteem and confidence. The teachers got my hint to handle the child. Also, I called the parents to make them understand what they are unknowingly doing to their child.
Sometimes being a parent is not just enough. Parenting is all about understanding the child, their feelings, and emotions.
Only the father reported immediately. I asked him, “Where is Sanjana's mother?”
The father said that Sanjana’s mother was ashamed and refused to come to school as she knows that it is about her poor performance. To understand the situation better, I enquired about Sanjana’s routine at home. Her father said that her mother makes her study till 12 at midnight to finish her work. It was disturbing to hear that an 11-year-old child is forced to burn the oil lamp at this stage. I shockingly asked why, when the school gives just 10 minute assignments to do at home. The father said that they wanted Sanjana to perform as well as her sister.
I tried to make him understand the fact that, no two children are the same. They may have different talents, interests, and develop at different rates and have different strengths.
Practically speaking, parents can either build or break the confidence and self-esteem of their child. Expressing unhappiness due to poor performance or bragging about other child’s achievements; both are inappropriate. I wasn’t sure how much my words would affect the parent’s attitude towards the child.
But, to my surprise, I could see a change in Sanjana after a few weeks. Her confidence reflected when she spoke with her peers, teachers and also towards me. Her marks in her first assessment made the teachers happy and they shared it with pride.
It all began with just a change in the outlook towards the child. Every behavior has a positive and negative reinforcement.
Here are the things that changed the child’s life. A positive approach towards a child can make all the difference.
Provide unconditional support and love: Sit and talk to your child. If there is something bothering him which is affecting his performance, devise solutions together.
Set a benchmark instead of comparing: Make your child believe that he can do better than his last performance, and he can handle situations.
Encourage to cope with the weakness: Despite his efforts, if he still doesn’t get to perform well, give him confidence and have patience. Never allow ‘good for nothing’ to settle in. This may deteriorate his performance further.
Praise the strengths: Appreciate your child for appropriate achievements; this will encourage the child to get involved in social situations.
Set up realistic expectations: If your child wants to become a writer, don’t force them to take up engineering. He/she may be smart, intelligent but lacking aptitude and interest, which are detrimental to success in any field.
Remember that every child is unique, they have different levels of interests, different strengths, and weaknesses.
“Let’s not try to get lost in comparing,
Let’s Discover the gifts and let them shine!”
About the author:
Kauser Abdul Thurab
Founder Principal, GT Vidhya Mandir at Chennai
She has been in the education field for more than 17 years. She does counseling sessions for parents and students. She strongly believes that a child could be the best human when he is nurtured and guided rightly.
A steadfast Counsellor, always battle enthusiastically handling emotions of students, parents and teachers by channelizing ,abridging , connecting and communicating with the student community and wider world.
A geared and approachable mentor, have done soft skill training and workshops for students, Parents and teachers on Multiple Intelligence, Reading Skills, Hands on Math, Cross Curriculum learning - STEM, Decision Making, and many more topics.