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Comparison: The Thief of Joy

Author: Jabari Colon
Published Date: Monday, April 25, 2022

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” As parents, we must believe him and keep this quote in the forefront of our hearts and minds as we parent multiple children.

I am a father to four children (ages 7, 8, 10, and 18) and have worked with youth for many years. Each child is a gift that comes with a different set of strengths and challenges. It is critical that we do not compare our children or uplift one over the other. Children have their own timing for maturity, development, and goal achievement. If you notice one child is struggling in some area, it is not time for criticism, but an opportunity to address and work alongside the child to teach and strengthen them.

When we engage in comparison, we risk lowering the self-esteem of a child who perceives their self as behind in development or achievement. The effects of low self-esteem can be devastating and a joy killer in a family and to a developing child. As a parent, comparing and ranking the success of your children might also foster resentment or jealousy between siblings. Make sure to be loud, clear, and intentional in communicating to each child that they are only in competition with themselves. Their goal is not to be better than a sibling or anyone else, rather only to be the best version of them.

Parents can also adopt this mindset for ourselves and model it. If we feel inferior to someone we think has more than us, we are sending the wrong message. We may not have the biggest home for our children, but we can ensure that we offer the largest amount of patience and persistence possible. Do not equate your value as a parent by the space you have secured for your children. Rather, give yourself space to figure out how to achieve your parenting goals and obtain the space that you desire. In the race of life, we did not all begin our strides from the same starting line. Take a second to consider, what exactly do I want more of?

As I reflect, I remember, it is not what you have in life that is most important, it is whom you have. I have my family and my own set of strengths and challenges, just like my children. My goal is to continue to be the best version of myself and teach my children.

In this age of social media, many of our children are trying to live up to an unrealistic expectation of comparison to others. However, our home is the most important classroom for them. We can teach our children:

  • To cut down self-comparison and uplift positive affirmation.
  • Who they are is enough.
  • They have their own strengths and can strive to be the best version of themselves.
  • As a parent, we are learning and growing, too.

It is crucial our children learn these early primary lessons. My hope is that you will apply these lessons with your family, so your child’s future self will thank you with joy. Do not allow comparisons to steal that from you.

Jabari Colon is CHKD’s new fatherhood blogger. Check out our Dads In Action page for additional resources for fathers.

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About Jabari Colon

About Jabari  Colon

Jabari Colon is a single father to four children aged 7 to 18 years old. Jabari coordinates a program that aims to increase community college acceptance rates for high school graduates. He also serves as a family support specialist and positive behavior specialist for at-risk youth and their families and leads and facilitates a psycho-social self-development program for youth and parents. While he assists parents by teaching and sharing best practices, he continuously seeks opportunities to grow as a father himself.