As the youngest of six, I remember feeling like I couldn’t quite live up to the stellar reputations of my older brothers and sisters–college homecoming queen, college student body president, talented musicians, athletes. I look back on that now and wonder, what did my parents do to keep me from getting stuck in the quicksand of comparison?
As I think back over those early years, a few of my parents’ powerful phrases echo in my mind:
“Did you do your best?”
When I came home with a C, my dad would look me in the eyes and say,
“Did you do your best?” He never compared me to my older, smarter sibs, or ask what happened to last quarter’s A or B. He just wanted to know if I’d truly given my best effort.
“I’m proud of you!”
I can’t even count the number of times my dad told me he was proud of me. Sometimes it was when I did something awesome, and sometimes it was just because. Armed with the knowledge of his pride in me, I rarely entertained thoughts of not measuring up to my older siblings.
“Their talent has nothing to do with you.”
My parents never compared my abilities to the talents of my siblings. I never heard “why can’t you be like your older brother?” or “look how your sister does it!’ My parents never tried to push me to follow in my siblings’ footsteps or be as good as they were in music or sports. I grew up knowing that their talent had nothing to do with me and that I was a special and unique person apart from them.
“There is no one like you.”
There were times when I doubted myself, when I looked at my older siblings and thought, “I’ll never be as smart or talented as they are.” I don’t know how my parents had the energy to do it with six kids, but each one of us knew that we were unique and that there was no one in this world exactly like us. They were intentional about focusing on each of us as individuals, not as a brood of kids. Each one of us knew that we had our own personalities and gifts and Mom and Dad never tried to make us be alike.
I never fell into the trap comparison because my parents dealt with it before it ever become a problem. I call that offensive parenting because parents on offense are not always reacting to problems and situations that a child throws at them, but are doing things to ward off those situations and problems from ever happening.
Yes, kids will compare themselves with others, but if you pour into them, as my parents did to me, your children will be ready to face the contention and comparison will not be the standard by which they measure their worth.
Janis Meredith, coach’s wife for 28 years and sports mom for 21, has been spreading the message of positive sports parenting for four years through her blog, podcast, and videos. You can find her at JBM Thinks Sportsparenting.