Comparisons come instinctively to most people when, as parents, what we should be doing is praise each child individually for who the child is.
I write this article as a concerned parent. And perhaps, I reflect the thoughts of hundreds of other parents like me too. Of course, I’m basing this on the countless conversations that I’ve had with plenty of parents who have kids around the same age as mine.
I am the father of a very active three-year old. As the parent of any toddler/three/four-year old can vouch, they are quite the handful. Perhaps, even more than a couple of handfuls too. In fact, I’ve often found myself wishing for a couple of extra limbs like one of the many Hindu gods – merely because we often have to juggle four different things, while running after these ‘very active’ kids.
My son is no different either. He has his moments of tantrums and stubbornness. He also has those moments where he will completely ignore you and pretend not to hear anything you say. There are also times when he is reluctant to do certain things; and often has a tendency to keep doing things he likes – repeatedly. He plays with some toys, but not with others. He likes to sing and dance, but not so much to write or paint. He even talks to his animals and toys; sometimes even to the characters in the cartoons. He can memorize lyrics to rhymes and songs even if he hears it just once; but then again, he has trouble recognising an apricot from a peach. In short, he does some things well, a few really well; and a couple of others, he does them differently. Just like every other kid his age, he is similar, yet unique.
But when people – strangers/neighbours – start to label toddlers with terms like ‘hyperactive, slow or having attention-disorder’ – it makes my blood boil. He may or may not have any of these symptoms; but why are people quick to label kids – especially not their own? Why do these people feel the insatiable desire to find fault with kids and worst of all, compare? Why can’t we just realise that these are little kids, each of them unique and different – not a herd of sheep! They all develop differently and at distinct times; their backgrounds are diverse – their characteristics, even more so.
Yes, kids these days, spurred on by technology and the rest – they develop a lot faster than you and I probably did at the same age. But even then, you’ll find that they’re all similarly dissimilar – from the way they speak to what they eat. Maybe if we look closely enough, we’ll see that they have talents that are much more than a neat handwriting, doing their homework properly or memorizing a bunch of things and reciting it back.
So, stop those comparisons. Stop judging them on the ability to hold a pencil properly or draw a straight line without help. So what if they have trouble staying within the lines when they colour? Or they read better than they write? Or they sing better than they read. Or they use their left hand to write and not the right?
Just don’t squash their dreams and creativity. Not just yet. Let them be kids a little longer.
I may get crucified for this, but I’m increasingly starting to feel that one of the root causes for these comparisons, are some parents. While it is absolutely natural for a parent to want the best for theirs kids and make sure to give them everything they can afford, what isn’t are their ‘unrealistic expectations’ to train their 3-year old to say 15 different words for each letter of the alphabet or to write words/sentences even before they join preschool. So please do a favour and take it easy on the rest of us, please.
We’re only human and we’re not in a race. And neither are our kids. And remember, don’t ask a square peg to fit in a round hole. It just doesn’t work.
*This post originally appeared on the the author’s blog.