It’s natural for parents to make comparisons with their child and other swimmers, whether it’s a sibling or teammate. We use comparisons to evaluate progress. We may think by comparing our swimmers to their peers, we’ll encourage our kids to try harder. With the best of intentions, we want to motivate our kids to be more competitive—but watch out—it might backfire. When we compare our kids, we may cause more harm than good.
Here’s a list of why comparing kids is a bad idea and what we should do instead:
Every child has different interests and desires. We can’t force our kids to have the same desires and drive as someone else.
Comparisons may make kids think they aren’t good enough and they can’t make you happy.
Children may feel discouraged and frustrated and want to give up if they believe they aren’t as talented as their siblings or teammates.
Constant comparisons may make your child jealous and promote rivalry rather than friendships and good sportsmanship.
Kids grow and mature at different rates and comparing 11-12 years olds makes no sense when one child may be years ahead developmentally than others the same age.
Always encourage effort and recognize your child’s improvements—without making comparisons to others.
Unconditional support and love are more effective in encouraging your child than unwanted and damaging comparisons with others.
Have you seen parents compare swimmers on the pool deck? How do you think comparisons work out?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.