Different children learn differently, and with different strengths and weaknesses. Comparing results of your child with his peers are akin to comparing apples and dragon fruits – a bizarre proposition. In fact, encouraging your child to compare himself against his peers can lead to a wide variety of detrimental effects, regardless of whether it is a favourable comparison.
A competitive environment is beneficial to nurture academic performance. That said, it is one thing to encourage your child to compete with his peers; it is another thing entirely comparing results or encourage him to compare himself to his peers.
1) Pronounced effect on self-esteem
You risk damaging his self-esteem or inflating his ego. If you compare his results to someone’s who outperforms him, you risk causing him to feel inferior or incapable. Unsurprisingly, it can be a crushing blow to his self-esteem. If you compare him to someone who is weaker, you risk inflating his ego. Such arrogance can be detrimental in the long term.
2) Development of your child’s interests
You may stifle the child’s interests. As an example, let us consider a child who loves math, and has an innate talent for it. However, his grades for science are consistently low. Now, the child will feel the pressure to improve if he were to compare results with his peers. And thus begin to devote more time to science, and less to Math, where his true talents lie. This can lead to him focusing more efforts on his weaker subject and not developing Math fully. Thus, by comparing results, you risk cutting your child off from his interests and talents.
3) External pressures as the only determinant of achievement
Comparing results of your child to his peers can develop an unhealthy dependence on external pressures. When he scores higher than his peers, he has succeeded. When he scores lower than his classmates, he has failed. Such a benchmark of success reduces the intrinsic motivation that is key to a child’s growth. He is working harder because he wishes to do better than his peers and not because he wishes to improve himself. If he finds himself in a situation where he has no “enemy” to defeat, he may lack the necessary motivation or drive to take action.
Conclusion on comparing results
Ultimately, children are different. Furthermore, each child has individual fields in which they excel. As parents, it is our responsibility to make sure our children develop their individual talents. The line between competition and comparison is a thin one. All parents must be careful when treading, lest they fall into the traps of comparison.