Posted by curlyq on March 8, 2013 in Babies
, Big Kids
When my first child was born – a girl – my husband and I were so excited. She was 7 lbs and 5 ounces – a perfect size! However, as we took her to her monthly “weigh in’s”, she was steadily dropping to lower and lower percentiles in her height and weight. Our doctor was not concerned because she was gaining weight each time, just not enough to keep her on a steady percentage curve. What happened to our perfect little fifty percentiler??
And if that wasn’t bad enough, two months later my niece was born and month after month she stayed in the 90th percentile – so precious, healthy, and round! I (and other family members) spent a great deal of time worrying and stressing that I wasn’t producing enough milk for my child so, at the advice of a relative, I took an herb to help myself produce more. When my petite girl was not interested in the excess milk I was producing, I ended up with Mastitis which caused an infection that landed me in the hospital overnight.
That was my first and probably hardest lesson in “Competitive Parenting.” Although this is not an official term, I use it to explain the very nature of some parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. who like to hold one child up to the other and…well…compare them. For instance:
“Look how much more this one eats than that one” (making the parents of the eater nervous that their child is an overeater and making the parents of the non-eater concerned about infant starvation).
“Your baby is a year old and not sleeping yet? Mine slept through the night at 2 months!” (Of course making the parent of the non-sleeper feel green with envy and questioning what she is doing wrong).
“That child is sitting still and eating his dinner and mine can’t sit still no matter what I put in front of him!” (This time a parent questioning her own ability as a parent as well as her child’s capabilities).
Whether you yourself are doing the comparing or it’s your friends, family, or perfect stranger in the grocery store, it’s an unhealthy pattern that we all fall into sometimes. It’s not good for you as a parent and it sets unfair expectations of your child.
After all, although we give our children their home, their room, their toys, their clothes, and even their name, we do not give them who they are. Our children come as a complete package – their own genetic make-up, personality, temperament, and appearance. Our job then is not to create who our children will be, but to shape who they already are.
We as parents have the very daunting task of turning out tiny tots into responsible, generous, loving, compassionate, patient, courageous adults – to form the swaddled bundle in our arms into his or her best self. And that best self will be entirely different from any other child’s best self.
I have a good friend who has two sons – we’ll call them “son A” and “son B”. Son A is angelic – listens to his teachers, does everything he’s told, and works daily to please his parents. Son B is full of energy and mischief, and seems to take joy in his mother’s disapproving reactions. These two boys have the same mom, and yet they are truly opposites of one another so it’s obviously not a credit to or a fault of her parenting. They are just different and they deserve different treatment, different discipline and different standards.
Son B will never reach son A’s level of perfect behavior, although he no doubt has many other gifts. In fact, his independence and strong will may at some point make him a tremendous leader. But if he is held to the same standards as son A and expected to sit still for long periods of time and listen perfectly to every direction he is given, he will grow up very discouraged at his inability to be someone he’s not. My friend fortunately realizes this fact and parents her two sons very differently, but have no doubt that she gets positive and admiring looks from other moms when she is just with son A, and quite condescending disapproving looks when she is just with son B.
How to deal with your “son B” if you have one, can be taken on in another article (I also highly recommend James Dobson’s The Strong-Willed Child). The answer to raising any child well really comes down to teaching your child, in whatever way he or she learns best, that he or she is very loved and that he or she should want and love good things. Obviously that is easier blogged about than done. But reading books like The Five Love Languages (yes this is the third article on our site in which this book has been recommended) and The Temperament God Gave You (even if you are not really a religious person, this book has fantastic psychological insights) is a good start. Both are great examples of how different we are as individuals, and can help us to figure out who are children are as individuals as well. From there, we can better know how to respond to them and raise them.
My oldest daughter is almost seven years old and is still not on the 50th percentile on her chart (I think she was pushing 25th on our last doctor visit). She is now a good eater, extremely active, and most importantly, healthy! I try not to compare her any more, but of course I still notice these things and try instead to focus on how her differences make her awesome. Perhaps she’ll always be one of the shortest in her class, but hopefully also one of the happiest. Now we just need to work on her fashion sense…
Much mommy love, Mommy Mentor Cafe du Mom
If you ever see any egregious typos in any of our articles, please let us know! We’re probably typing with our toes because we’re nursing babies, wrestling a wild toddler, and having a cup of coffee. Thanks for your understanding and help!
As always, here is my have-mercy-on-me disclaimer. Thank you!