How do you handle the “my child is smarter than yours” parental competition that crops up on playgrounds and in mothers groups across the country?
There is an amazing amount of competition among parents and many people see their children as extensions, or reflections, of themselves, therefore, they need their child to succeed to feel successful themselves. The problem with this is that it has nothing to do with the child’s needs and everything to do with the parent’s. For a parent struggling in a new role worried about doing right by their child, the pressure can be tremendous. It is crucial to realize that everyone develops in their own time but all arrive at the desired destination. When tests were done on early readers (age four) versus late readers (age eight) at age twelve, there was no difference in reading skills. So then why all the panic? Every child develops at their own pace. Children are not all cut from the same cookie cutter.
Want some good advice? Don’t play the game. When someone says that their child walked at six months, potty trained at eight months and was reading war and peace at age three, just smile and say, “Wow, he sounds really smart” or, “wow, that’s early”. Focus your comment on the child they are talking about and don’t volunteer anything about your own. If asked, use noncommittal responses such as, “We’re working on it”, “He’s focused on walking right now, we’ll get to it later” or “She isn’t that interested in the potty yet so we’re taking it slow”.
Certainly look into it if you feel that your child has a genuine delay. However, don’t let other parents or grandparents who are competitive undermine your confidence in yourself or your child. Just remember that you are giving your child the greatest developmental tool life has to offer: Your love and support, because children learn best when they feel safe and secure.
If you are interested in a developmental assessment for your child who is under three, please contact your local Early Childhood Intervention program.