I think most of us know that comparing our children to each other is not the way forward. Whether it’s done favorably (your Charlie is so much better at writing than my Billy) or not so favorably (I can’t believe her Charlie still can’t ride his bike without training wheels; Billy had that down months ago). It’s not nice.
But sometimes I find the comparisons go on internally, even when I’m too polite to voice them. Sometimes they’re born out of insecurities – I’m looking around for a measure, to check how well my child is doing, and really to check how well I’m doing as a mom.
Here’s a few reasons why children are not for comparing and why that’s just great:
1. All children are born persons
It’s a foundational educational principle of Charlotte Mason. It’s one of the things that first got my attention when I came across Charlotte Mason, through reading For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macauley.
It’s one of the wonders of becoming a parent – that moment of meeting your child. I have been struck every time by the enormity of meeting a person who is “my baby” and yet already an individual, distinct from myself. It’s a privilege to get to know them over the days, weeks and years that follow.
Children are born persons; they are not extensions of ourselves, they are not accessories, they are not something we have made. They are each a created, spectacular individual person. Entrusted to us. Amazing.
So why would we compare them with one another? Comparing when they start to smile, eat, walk, talk, count to 20, use the grown up bathroom. Why is this relevant?
Our worth and value as human beings is intrinsic; it doesn’t go up and down depending on our apparent successes and contributions. It just is. Every person is an individual created in the image of God the Creator and is therefore equally precious.
All children are born persons but of course personhood starts way before that moment of birth. Each individual is an incomparable individual from their very beginning. When you see the person as God sees them, who walked first is less than relevant.
2. They have everything they need for life and godliness
1 Peter 1:3 says “His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” Our children are not the exception to this.
Sometimes comparing our kids happens because we are worried about something. We wonder how life will treat them if their math skills are so far behind Jamie’s, or their confidence at sport is nothing compared with Jessica’s. We just don’t want them to be at a disadvantage in life.
But the Lord is the watcher and the keeper of our children – we can trust Him with our children (it might help to read this). And this is one of my favorite promises for all believers in Jesus: we have everything we need for life and godliness. Everything. All the other things we might see in other kids (that musical skill, that easy way of laughing, that flair for languages, that natural gift for leadership) are just other things.
Every precious believer has everything they need for life and godliness. They aren’t going to miss out. Accepting this truth also means we’re listening to God’s priorities for our children – life and godliness, not usually marks of success in the world’s eyes. If we can let this sink in, we don’t need to compare our children with angst for the future – the Lord knows what they need before we can even ask or imagine.
3. Envy rots the bones
Digging into why we are tempted to compare our kids reveals lots of different emotions. There’s a bit of insecurity, pride and envy going on in there. And this verse of wisdom is true for both the parents and the children. Being on the receiving end of comparison creates horrible feelings for children. And it steals away joy from the parents.
Is the answer just so simple as ‘count your blessings’? Well, kind of but it’s more than that. A heart at peace gives life, and that heart at peace comes from seeing things as God sees them. That involves trusting that the child God has created and that He has entrusted to you to take care of is “fearfully and wonderfully made”. There’s more trust involved too – more for another post. But essentially, we need to trust that God is good & that He’s in charge. So the gifts He has given us all flow from His generosity without limit. No room for envy.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14