As a parent, I must strive to avoid comparing my kids with one another. Be it extroversion or introversion, gifts of music or sports, or even academic ease with math or writing, I somehow expect each child to be like their siblings. I find myself frustrated with one child simply because they aren’t grasping what was easy for their sibling to grasp. Then I get frustrated at myself for the inappropriate and inexcusable way that I handled the situation as well as the expectations I placed on them.
One of the surprises of parenting is seeing how different my children's personalities are from each other from their earliest ages. They are unique, not just like their friends and not the same as each other. I have joy in knowing that these kids, so similar and yet so vastly different, are cut from the same parents. While they all love music, their music tastes, passions, and abilities, are vastly different. Where one has a passion for the piano and drums, the other hates playing piano and would rather sing and perform. And this is not new to me--I know their gifts and see their uniqueness every day. Yet I keep finding myself asking them to do the same things the same way, even if it's not a match for their gifting, instead of celebrating the unique gifts that God has given to them.
Genesis 1:27 reminds us that we were created in the image of God. Psalm 139:4 has this beautiful proclamation that we were beautifully and wonderfully made by God. Jeremiah 1:5 declares that before we took our first breath of air God knew us. That he formed us and knitted us in the very womb of our mothers. The gifts we have, the talents we were given, these are gifts from God. But kids are also born into a sinful world, and have struggles from the beginning. Obviously there needs to be a conversation about challenging our kids to try hard and put effort into areas where they struggle, but that too is a unique conversation to be had with one child at a time. Comparing one to the other or to expect the ease of one to be the ease of the other is not helpful.
While I can be a slow learner at times, there are a few takeaways and lessons I’ve come to realize:
I’ve found that when I encourage one of my kids while they are struggling at something they aren’t very good at that it helps not only them but me. Praise them for the little battles they win because for them it might be a significant victory. And in those moments you are affirming to them your love, patience, acceptance, and pride in who they are.
It seems simple but love really is the center of all things. When frustrations rise to Def-con 5, de-escalate and show love to your child. When tears are streaming because all involved are exhausted from trying and failing, demonstrate love. Love given freely can point others to the Savior who loves us unconditionally. And ultimately love overcomes a multitude of challenges.
Accept the fact that your kid is who they are. No matter what you want from them you simply cannot force that into them. In the same way that we cannot go before the Wizard of Oz to get the gifts that we lack and want, we simply cannot expect our children to produce gifts which they don't possess.
Remember who created and gifted your children in his own image. God has given each child love and beauty and characteristics that he ordained for them. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." God has filled each individual with his Spirit to bless his kingdom in the way he orchestrates.
We each have been given unique talents to cultivate, and work to bless others. Each person is needed and useful in the kingdom of God despite our vastly different abilities and skills. As we celebrate the unique way that God has made each one of us, it will guide us to stop making comparisons.