The Parent Trap—Comparing Children

***Anecdotes and advice from a Supermom of 12 children

As a mother of 12 children, I've often wondered at the fact that my children have such varied natures, talents, and looks. I would have thought that after a time, I'd push out clones, one indistinguishable from the next. Instead, I've been gifted with 12 very different individuals.

"Why can't you be more like John?"

Now, I know as well as anyone that it's a parenting no-no to compare children, and that's across the board: no comparisons allowed. That means that you don't get to tell your child, "Why can't you be more like John?"

It also means you can't praise your child for his seeming similarity to another, "I can see where Susan gets her drawing talent!"

Temptation to compare

Most of all, it means that should such thoughts enter your mind, you should try to replace these thoughts with other, more acceptable thoughts. It can be a temptation to compare children when one of them is behaving in a less than charming manner. Most parents will attest that this can be the case a lot of the time.

In my experience, siblings take turns at being the child who finds favor in his parents' eyes. This display of pleasantness in a child tends to bring out negative traits in his siblings. This is because the less favored child then has to find a way to make a splash with mom and dad, and what's left is acting out in a less than pleasing manner. It's interesting to note that the cause of this type of poor behavior is due to the child's own pulse-feeling: he's comparing himself to his siblings and gauging his ability to gain the upper hand in terms of his parents' attentions.

Worst thing

It's hard not to resent the child who misbehaves in an effort to get attention. The temptation for the parents to compare his behavior to that of the more angelic child is always there, just as the child compares himself to his sibling. Even though it seems natural to compare children, even as they compare themselves to each other, try to remember that the very worst thing a mom or dad can do is to indulge in thoughts like, "I wish Gary were more like Joseph."