As a parent do you ever feel like your parenting journey is being ranked and judged? Though unintentional, I've found that we in society quickly compare our kids to those around us. It can even start in pregnancy. We mothers start to debate over who had the worst morning sickness or the quickest delivery, and of course, who went drug free vs. who had to endure a C-section. Then our children are born and it's about birth weight, APGAR scores and gender.
The Comparison Trap
As our kids grow we tend to compare milestones and fret constantly over whether our own babies are "keeping up". Babies who crawl at 5 months or walk before a year are called advanced and parents proudly boast about it, while the other parents of infants who are still trying to roll over, remain silent hoping no-one notices. It really isn’t intended to be a contest, but despite our best intentions, these comparisons do happen and leave us feeling either prideful or sad and discouraged. Neither is healthy and it’s not what God wants for our families.
Our children are unique and precious gifts, beautifully designed by God with their own path ahead of them, but from birth to college society puts certain expectations on children for them to be deemed successful. Instead of seeing children as having unique personalities that will make them grow and succeed in their own ways, we incorrectly label our children's individualities as strengths and weaknesses.
If a toddler is smiley and bubbly, they are praised for being friendly and "easy", while another who cries while being left at daycare, is called clingy and a "handful". Perhaps a young child loves to have books read to them while their sibling would prefer to run and jump around. The eldest will be predicted to become a great reader, while the sibling will need extra help to catch up or be called the athlete of the pair. The blonde haired, blue eyed daughter is constantly called the "beauty" while the younger less striking son is called "smart".
Without realizing it we are placing these damaging labels on our children, either praising or condemning them, not because they are doing something wrong or right, but simply because of how God made them.
Struggle vs. Sin
All of us are born sinful, and each of us will struggle with some sins more than others. My eldest son likes to be the centre of attention and will whine to demand our attention while my youngest will give big temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. These are sin struggles and through discipline, prayer, and love we are working to guide and correct them, ultimately pointing them to Christ who is the only one who can change their hearts. These are just some of their "weaknesses".
However in contrast, my youngest child is just shy of 4 years old and he is not fully potty trained. At two and a half, we began the potty training process but it was clear that even with signs of “readiness” he still needed time. Another six months went by and we tried again with a different strategy and still, there was no success. Halfway through being 3, we were starting to get concerned about it so we pushed very hard using every trick in the book, but no matter what we did it was not happening. As he is now turning 4 and is signed up for Junior Kindergarten in the fall, I’ve found myself obsessing over his potty training. I called his doctor and after her reassuring me that it would happen when he was ready I still had that guilty feeling that he was “behind”. I unknowingly labeled him negatively based on something that was totally out of his control.
It’s hard for any parent to think their child isn’t where they should be for their developmental stage. Everyone knows that being different opens the door to potentially a lot of struggle and hurt. We all want our children to be “normal” and to feel included and accepted, but God has shown me that I cannot let my fears spill over and put a burden on my kids that they are not meant to carry.
I will not apologize for my son not being potty trained and I won’t put a label on him because of it. I am doing everything I can as his mom to help him reach this stage, but I will not condemn this struggle as a weakness that must be fixed, but instead as a goal I am helping him to achieve. He is not less or weak or behind, he is my incredible, deeply loved, passionate little boy who is a miracle created by God with his own biological timeline.
As parents, we are meant to set high standards for our kids: standards of morality, integrity, character, and love. We are to show them right from wrong, love them unconditionally and help them see the need for Jesus to rescue them from the sinfulness in their hearts, but we must be careful to not confuse healthy expectations with societal standards that aren’t even in our children’s control.
A Godly Perspective
I’m learning to let go of the need to try to control circumstances in order to create a desired outcome, and instead surrender it all up to God. He and He alone knows my child’s future and the only way I can be a godly parent is by trusting Him every single day and obeying His word. Trusting in Him frees us from the pride and discouragement we feel when we look at our children and compare them to others. He helps us to stop focusing on things that have no eternal value like how quickly they learn to ride a bike or how good-looking they are. We can rest in the knowledge that God has a plan for our children’s lives and that He is guiding their steps.
Whether your child is still learning to walk, speak coherently or is a beauty pageant winner, they are exactly who God created them to be. Ditch the labels and instead pour truth over your little one, reminding them everyday that they are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)
Author - Erin
Follower of Jesus, on a journey to glorify God and to advance His Kingdom while battling Chronic Illness in the everyday life. Diagnoses include Lupus, CVID, POTS, IBS, Hemiplegic Migraines and other Autoimmune conditions.