Advice from the Pros

Ideas and advice from people whose work or research has had an impact on children and parents.

What Can I Do When My Kids Compare Themselves to Others?

What Can I Do When My Kids Compare Themselves to Others?

Here at Highlights, we receive thousands of letters from our readers each month. Every child gets a personal response from an editor. Some of the letters are also published in Highlights® magazine. In the December 2009 issue, one correspondent declared, "Everyone in my family has a talent except for me." The editor's response suggests ways Sophie S. from Idaho can discover her own talents-and goes on to say that, "It's usually best not to compare yourself with others."

In the popular series Ask Arizona, written by Lissa Rovetch, the December 2009 story begins with a letter to Arizona. A child writes that he is green with envy because a friend will be playing a solo in the band concert.

Arizona responds by describing how, after an attack of envy that threatened to wreck one of her friendships, a humorous event involving her cat brought her to her senses. Arizona reminds "Green with Envy" that "when it's your turn to shine—and it will happen to you one of these days!—don't you want your friends to be happy for you?" She also acknowledges that "sometimes it's just really hard to be human."

It's natural for kids to compare themselves with others. Kids sometimes wish they had the athletic prowess, wardrobe, looks, smarts, or talents of a friend or relative. Girls tend to compare themselves to other girls, and boys to other boys. Competition and comparisons occasionally provide inspiration for a child to try harder or attempt something new. But more often, kids become discouraged when they measure themselves against an older sibling or an especially accomplished peer.

Remind your kids that everyone is different, with his or her own set of talents and abilities. Praise your children for their efforts, and remind them that there are many different ways to be wonderful and special. The next time your child compares himself to the kid who aced the test or the soccer champ, do what Arizona and the Highlights editors suggest—help your child see that there's nobody else like him, and that he's the child you love.