There is a saying, comparison is the thief of joy. This is a real issue for our parents, and something we, as ECE teachers, can help them counter. Many parents are really excited by something their child has done...until they notice another child further along the developmental path, and their excitement deflates instantly.
What was previously a joyous achievement suddenly doesn’t seem like enough. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially in this uber-competitive society of ours.
The competitions start early, in baby groups and online pages. Milestones are named and everyone weighs in and each parent gets to see if their wee one ‘measures up’, or not.
Parents get panicked about ‘normal’ and not falling ‘behind’. And it is no wonder parents get caught up in it as it is so rampant. It doesn’t end with our wee one’s first movements and eventual steps, there is toilet training, lunchboxes, language, social skills, phonics, counting..you name it, there’s bound to be a feeling that there’s a level a child ‘should’ be at a certain time. And if not, parents are made to feel it's possibly their fault. Then they start comparing themselves with the mythical perfect parent out there.
Whatever way it happens, comparison doesn’t just steal their joy, it robs them of the chance to marvel at their child. They lose focus on what the child IS doing and get caught up in the ‘not yets’. This isn’t fair on anyone.
Instead of judging parents for falling into this ‘trap’, we can model another way. We can help them take joy in their child, and other people’s children, without any sense of if they are doing things soon enough, or well enough.
Every little step, and every hint of who children are is worth celebrating. They are amazing, no matter what they are doing, or in fact, whether they are ‘doing’ anything at all. We need to help parents reclaim their joy, just by observing and appreciating exactly who each child is. We have to live and breathe respect for each child's unique pathway in order to act as full-time role models. Our language, body language, documentation, everything needs to shine with examples of the ‘as is’ greatness, and the ‘enoughness’ of every single child. This helps our parents. This helps their/our children. Because what the parents feel, the child picks up on. And we want them to pick up on the joy their loved ones find in them.
Parenting isn’t always easy, but it should hold joy. Children serve this up to us adults constantly if our eyes are open to it. But if If we’re too busy looking at developmental charts, or sneaking a look at the abilities of the other three year olds at the playground, we’re blind to that joy right in front of us. We can help our parents lose the competitive focus that they're surrounded with ‘out there’, and make ours a judgment free zone: no judging, just joy. Let’s not let comparison steal that from them.