Parenting Perspective: Comparing childhood development

May 17, 2010

Six-year-old Aidan and 22-month-old Liam are two adorable and very sharp little boys.

But, although their mom and dad have more than a half a decade of parenting experience under their belt, Jay and Kristen Davidson say they often fall into a trap many parents do: comparing their children to others.

"For instance, a couple of the kids that are Aidan's age have lost their teeth but Aidan hasn't lost his yet so we worry, is there something wrong," said Kristen.

The dentist has assured the Davidsons that Aidan's oral development is perfectly normal but Kristen says, although measuring her kids up to others their age is something they try to avoid, sometimes it's difficult.

"If someone has the latest and greatest clothes or what they're feeding their kids you're not feeding your kids," she said. "It makes you feel like, maybe, you're not doing the right thing."

Dr. Neill Epperson, Director of the Penn Center for Women's Behavioral Wellness says occasionally comparing your children's development is normal, but it shouldn't consume and, in the majority of cases, should not concern you either.

"One of the things you have to remember as a mom is developments go in spurts and stops and there is no one way for a child to develop, there is a wide range of normal," Dr. Epperson said.

Child Psychiatrist Dr. Steven Berkowitz adds that parents should be careful not to verbalize those comparisons in front of their children, which some parents may mistake as an appropriate way to motivate their children.

"The danger comes in when parents start articulating their children, 'Bobby why don't you do this, she's so good at this you're not," said Dr. Berkowitz. "That's when it can affect self-esteem."

The Davidsons say they try to constantly be aware of how their actions or words may affect their boys, and know that every child is different.

"I think kids should be allowed to progress at their own pace not at what the grown-ups think they should progress at," Jay Davidson said.

Both doctors say, in reality, there is just too much pressure these days on both kids and parents. Their advice? Relax and know that if you are providing a loving and safe environment, you are doing the right thing and you're child will thrive.

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