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Comparisons. To compare oneself to others – is to feel less than

We are groomed from a very young age to understand the importance of being first. First in a race, brightest in your class or best in your chosen sport.

As parents we want our children to do well and so we use a bench marking system to gauge our children’s progress.

There is however a right way and a wrong way to using this process.

Unfortunately most parents do not get it right and instead of building self -confidence in their children they actually produce the opposite affect.

As a parent your child will mimics certain learned behaviors. For instance how you react to certain situations will then become their mantra.

Let’s use Johnny taking a test as an example. Most parents will automatically gauge how well Johnny does, using the smartest kid in the class, as a benchmark. If Johnny excels and you are elated then he too will be elated especially if he has scored better than other kids in his class.

The reverse can also happen. If you find out other kids have faired better than Johnny you may be disappointed and Johnny in turn will then be unhappy.

Now here’s the problem with this kind of conditioning. Johnny is only happy when Johnny wins. A loss could easily be interpreted as “not being good enough” regardless of how well Johnny performed.

So what happens when Johnny doesn’t win all the time? What happens to his self-esteem?

This is a big issue I see developing in young children and especially those involved in sports. Without a benchmark to hit they spend their time trying to please others and become frustrated with the end results. It’s this frustration that can lead to low self-esteem.

Low self-esteem however can be easily turned around.

I like to tell people about the apples vs. apples philosophy.

Lets go back to Johnny.

When he comes home with his results – be happy with what he has achieved. He did the best he could in that moment. As a parent you need to make it irrelevant what his result were compared to others.

Then you use these results as a benchmark for future tests.

When future scores come in- together you can see how he faired.

This is a great opportunity to also bond with your child as you can discuss what happened and you show him what he can do next time to improve. Learning self- evaluation is one of the best skills you can instill in your child.

Kids are eager to please and with a benchmark and a plan he has the recipe to improve. A plan is like having boundaries and believe it or not kids like boundaries. A boundary shows them where they are at and what is possible with the right effort. This in turn builds self -confidence. The better they perform the more their confidence goes up.

Learning to teach your child how to benchmark his past performances to current performances can be totally life changing for a young child. No longer will they carry that loser mentality around with them.

The following example shows how important it is to get the right philosophy instilled in your children.

Ten kids run in a 100m race. When the ribbons are given out all the kids know who won and came second and so forth. Everyone also knows who comes last.

If the race is run over and over again, very rarely will the kid who ran last win. More than likely he will end up losing over and over again. After a while this child will develop a loser mentality and will eventually suffer low self-esteem.

Now here’s how different it can look using the apples philosophy.

The first race sets the benchmark. Every additional race your child will be able to tell if they have improved or not.

Regardless of where they come they know what their benchmark is and if they have hit it. This child will continually strive and each time they surpass the last effort their self worth will increase.

The last Olympics showed how both mentalities had been instilled in athletes.

I saw plenty of Aussies being interviewed. There were those who were annoyed that they had not won their race. Regardless of how well they did they were disappointed in their performance and were grumpy.

Then you had the Aussies who operated under the apples philosophy.

They were so excited even though they had come 4th or 5th because they had achieved their personal best.

Now which one do you think would have enjoyed the rest of their Olympic experience?

As parents we get to help decide which one of these philosophies our children experience so which one would you choose?