Harmful Effects of Comparing Siblings and Children

Biggest torture (zulm) on a child that can be done by a parent is “comparing the child with a sibling or some other child”.

For example here is the complaint of a mother of two children:
“Comparison starts as early as one month;

  • He was active, but this child is so weak… 
  • He walked so early, but this child is still not trying… 
  • He started to speak so early, but this child still cannot babble… 

and then later on:

  • He was more loving and attached, but this child never stays with us….
  • On every [so called] milestone people are crazy comparing siblings…. 
  • and all this becomes a reality, a self fulfilled prophecy after a while…. 
  • I also feel sometimes how to make people realize this insanity and zulm around us… 
  • but how can we become vocal because then we will be labelled….”
Comparing siblings and children has serious issues. We should remember:
  1. Each child is different. Some much more than others. Some even extremely!!!
  2. Technique that worked with one may not work with other or even worse may work in the opposite direction with other.
  3. Each child needs to carve out his own distinctive niche.  Give him space to make mistakes.  Let him try many things and “fail” many times.
  4. Every child has to fall down many times himself before he learns to walk. Those who do not fall can not walk! As parents, you need to just try to ensure that he does not fall down where there are sharp objects or slippery surfaces. This is not only true for mastering the skill to walk, but metaphorically for all other early childhood skills such as speaking,  writing,  and playing, but also later skills such as interpersonal,  dialectics, analytical n other skills.
  5. Have trust in child’s potential for individual greatness.
  6. Giving guidance (hidayah) is creator’s (Allah’s) responsibility. A parent’s responsibility is to be a role model and provide an enabling environment and pray for the best. 
  7. Don’t be tense and work yourself up at your child’s expense. Have trust in your child and be patient. Give him time to bloom. He may be a seed that is not a four month crop but be a banyan tree that takes a long time to grow but would stand for hundreds of years! Parents’ excessive worry and impatience creates more harm than good.
  8. Overcoming the temptation of comparing with sibling is the biggest parental challenge.
  9. Having trust in your child is a matter of belief. You must not lose heart even when all observations are pointing in the wrong direction.  This is the matter of belief in the infinite wisdom of the creator.
Stories like the following abound of how comparison can destroy a family:

Once there was an eldest son who was called paternal grandmother’s (Dadi’s) son or father’s son. The second one used to be called mother’s son. Eldest was a position holder and always used to be first class first. There was always comparison with the second one who was just average. Dadi’s son vs mother’s son. Continuous comparison between the two became a battle ground of spouse rivalry.  Then Dadi died and some years later father also died. Now the power and property devolved to mother and hence to second son. The eldest ran from pillar to post but to no avail. He developed  brain complications and suddenly died while still young.

There are major psychological  reasons why we compare a child with other children and do this zulm:

  1. Subconscious vicious revenge of finding my child (or me) weaker in some respect with the other child and sniping at the other child (or his mother) by pointing out the other’s weakness.
  2. Deriving sadistic pleasure in pointing out the weakness in other child.
  3. If my child or I am miserable how come other’s child is happier.
  4. Fighting for the political power in family by making child a battle ground for point scoring.
  5. Making  my children a platform for redress of all my frustrations, deprivations and shortcomings by trying extra hard to the point of torture to make my children excel at things that I could never achieve.
I see many parents not willing to read or even trying to read but wanting extra hard that their children should read. They are willing to rob the children of their fun time/play time by thrusting one tuition after another down their throat. They have no time to give to their children except make them read. (You can replace “reading” in this paragraph with “writing” or “scoring grades” or any other skill deficiency of the parent of which he wants to make amends through the life of child).

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  1. highlighted the right thing, but Sir what about the grown up young fellows whose parents compares them with neighbours, relatives, class fellows in term of their Jobs,designation, earnings, luxury life style and house etc ?????

  2. Sadly, not everyone realize this.
    A very good read indeed.

  3. I think grown ups can handle this comparison provided their parents have developed in them a confidence in their abilities by enabling them to try and fail gracefully, encouraging them every time even when they failed, without labeling or humiliating them.

  4. How can I let all parents understand the harm that they do to their children by robbing them of their self-confidence and feeling of self-worth through such comparisons!

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