End Childhood Comparisons and Choose Contentment

By Kay Wyma
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Do your kids compare what they have to what others own? Help them beat this comparison game by learning to be thankful for what they have, even when others have more.

“Mom, can we go dress shopping this week?” my 13-year-old daughter, Barton, asked. I had just picked her up from a cotillion class where she was learning about manners and social skills.

“Honey, you look fine,” I said. “And your dress was OK last year.”

“Yeah, last year,” she muttered.

“I hear you,” I assured her. “We will get you another dress.”

“Another dress?” she replied, a little indignant. “There are five more classes!”

I paused, letting her response sink in. “Are you thinking you need a different dress for every class?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Honey, that is so not going to happen.”

In my daughter’s mind, everyone would be wearing different dresses every week; everyone except her. Somehow, she had become the center of her own attention and could no longer enjoy her cotillion experience because she was comparing herself to others.

The comparison game

In all honesty, I’m guilty of the same patterns of thinking that my daughter expressed that day in the car. It’s not just our children who struggle with comparison. As moms, we know it can be hard to find comfort in our own skin, our own clothing, our own homes. This can be especially challenging as the holidays approach and we are reminded of what we do not have.

Tweens and teens may play the comparison game with cotillion dresses, just as moms can play it in myriad other ways, but the result is often the same: ingratitude. At times like these, perspective offers us a minute to breathe, to hit the pause button and to see our situations more clearly. If we can take our eyes off ourselves long enough to quit comparing, we just might catch a glimpse of all the good things and good people in our lives.

A new perspective

It may be the season for giving thanks, but Christmas cards will begin to trickle in and I’m often tempted to think my family is less-than. And then I wonder how my children might also fall into the temptation to try to measure up. That’s when a better perspective can help us look around the kitchen table and be grateful for each and every unique personality represented there — even if Mom of the Year, Eagle Scout or National Merit Finalist isn’t written by our names.

Whether we’re talking clothing or accomplishments, decor or finances, it’s easy to focus on the fact that some people simply have more. So we need to acknowledge that comparing ourselves to others has the potential to seriously undermine our contentment and undercut our relationships.

Gratitude can serve to jump-start our contentment, but it’s hard to be grateful with our eyes focused on ourselves. When our focus shifts away from “me,” we can see others in need of encouragement and love. And we get to live according to the Great Commandment — loving God and loving others.

Contentment

Even in a culture of comparison, you can find contentment when you take the necessary steps to train yourself — and your children — to practice gratitude.

Step One: Recognize your own discontentment. When you’re open and honest about your own struggles, you’re better equipped to help your children with theirs.

Step Two: Lead by example. Before helping someone else, it’s best to start by helping yourself. It’s easy to see comparison struggles in your children, but the same issues may crowd all of your days.

Step Three: Do a mental reboot. Encouraging words may be great, but actions go a long way in taming your tendency to struggle with comparison. Consider using the control-alt-delete process:

  • Control your thoughts. Catch those uneasy notions at the onset. 
  • Opt for an alternate perspective. Be grateful for life and for your many blessings (James 1:17). 
  • Then, delete or stop comparing. Just don’t do it.

As we approach this holiday season, we’ll find it’s the perfect time of year to recapture contentment in our hearts and in our homes. Gratitude helps to shift our focus so we can move beyond being the center of our own attention.

Kay Wills Wyma is a blogger, speaker and the author of I’m Happy for You (Sort Of . . . Not Really).

Copyright © 2015 by Kay Wills Wyma. Used by permission.

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About the Author

Kay Wyma

Kay Wills Wyma is a popular blogger, speaker and writing contributor for publications such as The New York Times, D Magazine and Dallas Child. She has authored two books, Cleaning House and I’m Happy for You (Sort of … Not Really). Kay is a stay-at-home mother of five children. She is happily married to Jon, and their family resides in …

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