With school children home for the summer, you may want to take advantage of some of the ideas expressed here. Also, give yourself a rest from comparing yourself with other people!

The tendency to compare people and things is a common habit that helps us develop our own identities and is also a potential problem.

Beware of using the positive in a way that punishes the other person or yourself. We hear unhelpful comparisons sometimes when parents try to teach their children. “Why don’t you keep your room nice like your sister?!,” probably won’t help the child keep a neater room, and builds resentment toward sister as she sing-songs, “Yah, nah, nah! Your room is messy. Mine is nice and clean!”

Helpful comparisons are those that point out each child’s special qualities of goodness and how they are different from others, while not denigrating the others. For example, “Yes, your sister is good at baseball, and you are good at music.” Each of us has different strengths and needs; because of this, we need each other.

Each child needs a sense of progress and pride. You can compare the child’s earlier work with current achievements, “Look at your writing papers. Your handwriting is getting better all the time!”

Children need to develop a sense of separateness and of personal identity at certain stages of their lives and, therefore, have to do things differently from other members of the family. The child who is neat now, will probably have a messy stage later, at the appropriate time (usually in the teens), and return to neatness habits in adulthood.

To help teens make the transition, consider the advice I received. “Teenagers who leave their clothes in a heap do not need Mom or Dad to rescue the items and scold them later. Instead, leave the clothes alone and teach them to do their own laundry. Your goal is for them to be self-sufficient when they leave home, not dependent on ‘maid services’!”

So you can say, “(Name of teenager), I don’t really know what you plan to wear again and what you want washed.” (“Oh, don’t start that again!”) “You are nearly grown up and will be ready to leave home before we know it!. I’d like for you to be able to take care of your own clothing. (“Yeh? I bet!”) Beginning today, when you are ready to wash your clothes, let me know and I will help you. Then the next time, you will be on your own (“Really?!!”) as far as washing goes, that is! (Groan) Of course, if you have questions I’ll be glad to answer.”

“You mean, I have to do my own washing now?”


Older adults have transitions, too. Many feel “useless” when they compare themselves with younger people, because they can’t do the things they could when younger and stronger. This is especially true when a person is confined to a nursing home. I have found that it helps them to hear how important they are in teaching and giving others the opportunity to learn “caretaking.”

“Thank you for letting our students help with your care. (“Well, I didn’t do anything.”) You are very important in their education. They have learned about diabetes and high blood pressure. (“I answered a few questions is all.”) and something about the strengths you have developed through the years. (Really?) Yes, your patience and endurance, your smiles and ‘Thank you’s’ mean a lot to them. (“Why, I didn’t know all that! Thank you!”) Thank you!

Our society has such strong tendencies toward violence that the wisdom and skills of its senior citizens are greatly needed in teaching the younger generations. How else will we become a kinder, gentler society?

Be kind toward one another, tender hearted, mutually forgiving, even as God has in Christ forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32 Modern Language Bible (Berkeley Version)


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