My child compares herself to other kids and doesn't think she stacks up.  What should I do?

When a child compares him- or herself, they are often asking for reassurance that they are loved and are "good enough".  If they are striving to achieve or be "better than" others to win approval and acceptance, they can become demotivated and feel "less than" others when they feel they don't measure up to their own or others' expectations.  Also, birth order can be a factor to look at. 

  • First, review some of the topics covered in RCB class session 1, the emotional bank account and GEMS.  How full is this child's emotional bank account?  Start making some deposits if the account might be low.  If you are familiar with the Five Love Languages, make deposits in all 5 love languages, words of affirmation, physical touch, gifts, acts of service, and quality time.  Possibly, you have been making deposits in your love language, but that might not be your child's primary love language.  To keep love tanks full, speak all five love languages regularly. 
  • Next, explore your child's "self-talk".  Remind her that she is responsible for keeping her self encouraged.  Model for her how you do this yourself.  For example, maybe you have  compared yourself to others at work (or in the gym, or a hobby), and feel a twinge of envy when you see that someone else has better skills in a certain area.  Then you think about the skills and qualities you possess that you are proud of, and make the decision to get extra training to develop a specific skill.  Or maybe you decide not to develop another skill.  In either case, it's a choice, and it's OK that we are not all the same.  Share your self-talk you use to keep yourself encouraged, and teach her to do the same.  We want to teach our children to talk as kindly to ourselves as we would to a friend.  Ask her to think about what she would tell a friend who shared the feeling that she did not measure up in a certain area, and then to practice talking that way to herself. 
  • Hold an encouragement feast regularly with the entire family.  This is a great way to keep ourselves encouraged, and to have our family members remind us what our wonderful qualities are. Pull out your love bags, or use this as an opportunity to update them and begin using them regularly. 
  • Review the praise vs. encouragement information from RCB class session 4, and if you have reverted to praising (an old habit that is easy to fall back into!), start using encouraging statements more often.  This reduces the amount of comparison and need for external approval.  We want our children to learn and achieve through their own motivation, rather than out of a need to win approval from others.  External motivation sometimes appears to work in the short-term, but in the long-term, many studies show that it backfires.  Praised kids shy away from taking on tougher tasks, and these externally motivated kids often require higher and higher levels of rewards to maintain the same level of motivation. 
  • Finally, reassure your child that she is loved unconditionally, and it doesn't matter how she compares in any certain area to others.  Let her know you love her know matter what.  Some ideas to convey are that people are not made from a template or a copy machine.  People are made like snowflakes, every one is different and unique.   Find out if there are particular areas that she is referring to.  For instance, is she telling you that she is not as good in math as someone else, she has fewer friends, or her soccer skills are lacking?  Help her decide what she wants for herself, and then come up with an action plan with several specific tasks.  It might be working together on specific math or soccer skills, attending a few tutoring or coaching sessions, or meeting with the teacher or coach.  She might invite one friend to an outing each month to grow her social group.  Let her know you are there for her, that you love her no matter what her skills or achievements are, and that she can decide for herself where she wants to put her energy.   When she makes improvement in an area, use encouragement to acknowledge her effort and her own joy in the process.  "Wow, Susie, you studied and asked for help on the areas you were struggling in, and look at the progress!  I'm so happy for you!  How do you feel about this grade? What part of the process are you most proud about?" 
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