Child Development Olympics or: How to compare your child to others.*
The Olympics are over and you’re feeling competition-deprived? Here’s the solution.
The standard advice is to never compare your child to others — to yourself, to their siblings, to your friend’s kids. And personally, I try not to. Mostly because it would be completely unfair to everyone else. But for those of you do who engage in Competitive Parenting, here are some tips.
- The optimum time for comparison is during the toddler years. Sure, you can tell everyone your baby lifted his head at 2 days old, but in a few days that’s old news. Your preschooler can skip? Yeah, so can mine. But a toddler with a Gold in walking or talking can hang on to it for a while. The milestones are big, the range is wide and the skills are easily demonstrable.
- The events are: Gross Motor, Fine Motor, Language, Thinking Skills, Social Interaction. Figure out your scoring system so all the kids are judged fairly. An example system:
Award points in each event and apply a multiplier. The first child to accomplish a given skill receives points equal to the number of children competing, add points for all skills in the event. The multiplier is determined by how much you care about a particular event.
In a group of 3 children, Alice walked first, Bob second and Carol third. Carol can kick a ball. Bob was the first to use recognisable words and Alice was second to speak but the first to complete a translation of a literary work (“5 Little Monkeys” into Swahili).
Alice: GM 3, L 3+2=5
Bob: GM 2, L 3
Carol: GM 1+3=4, L 0
The current Competitor is Carol’s mother, and her specialty is Gross Motor so that multiplier is 5. She doesn’t care much about Language so gives it a multiplier of 1.
Alice: GM 3*5=15, L 5*1=5, Total 15+5=20
Bob: GM 2*5=10, L 3*1=3, Total 10+3=13
Carol: GM 4*5=20, L 0*1=0, Total 20+0=20
Clearly, despite her lack of communication Carol is the better child and her mother the obvious winner. Carol wins Gold for Individual All-around, while Alice takes Gold in Language. Of course, as a team they stand a very good chance against the other playgroups!
- The most important event — the most reliable predictor of Ivy League acceptance and actual Olympic medal winning — is the event your child excels in. If you have more than one child, it’s the event your current favourite excels in.
- When your child leads in a particular event, mention it loudly and often. Particularly to the parents of the children trailing the leader boards.
- This is about your child, but it’s not about your child. It’s about your child the way cycling is about the bicycle. Really, it’s about you and your genetics and of course, your parenting. Your child’s Gold is actually yours and a reflection of your perfection.
- Give advice to the parents of children without a podium finish. Topics deemed acceptable may be as varied as sleeping, feeding, discipline, screen time, gadgets or the Baby Woowoo class you found online. Remember, your way is the best way and if it doesn’t work for others with a different child and completely different circumstances, they’re obviously doing it wrong. Give this advice particularly when unasked for, that’s when it’s most needed. And follow up, repeatedly and publicly.
Well, ok, maybe not.
Now that the Olympics are over, we can all take a break from competition (and all the side issues that accompany the modern games!). And from watching amazing feats of athletic prowess. Instead, we can watch the tumbles and triumphs of our toddlers and babies and preschoolers. Enjoy them all growing and discovering the world and developing in the way that’s right for them.
In short, don’t take childhood competition too seriously — leave that to the actual Olympic trainers and athletes. Yes, we do all do it, whether we admit it or not. We’re human, it’s what we do.
But when we can take pride in Carol’s ball kicking while celebrating Alice’s bilingualism, everyone’s a medallist.
Your kid will one day be eating with a knife and fork right next to mine, and no-one will care who picked theirs up at 8 months or 18 months. They’ll be too busy judging who’s using the fork in the wrong hand.
* Yes, this post is entirely tongue-in-cheek. Except the bit about not taking it all too seriously. That bit really is sincere.