Kids and the comparison trap
Is there a student in your life that is a people pleaser?
Are they always looking for approval and recognition?
Do they worry too much about fitting in?
Do they complain that they have no friends?
Do they have trouble taking initiative, even in situations where they have experience and ability?
Young children are often naturally authentic. They don’t worry about giving the right answer or comparing their efforts to someone else. In fact, this was one of the things that made teaching lessons in kindergarten so fun and entertaining. I never knew what students would say in answer to questions.
However at some point, the comparison trap kicks in and children begin to recognize and value the opinions of others. Soon they are worried about saying the right thing, doing the right thing and even wearing the right clothes. In her excellent book on The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown identifies the age where this begins to show up as around fourth grade, although I think it happens much younger. Brown goes on to define authenticity as the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.
Considering authenticity a practice is good news for all of us who have been compulsive people pleasers because it means that being authentic is actually a choice albeit a choice that we must make over and over on a daily basis. How can we share this information with the students in our lives and encourage a lifetime of authenticity rather than one of comparison and people pleasing? Teaching and modeling authenticity is tricky business for sure. Here are some tips:
- Re-frame mistakes and failure as learning not losing. Look for the opportunity to learn in every experience. This helps defeat the need to compare my score or success with yours.
- Praise the effort and intention behind the work rather than the end result. Teach children to practice self-talk that models this so that they can encourage themselves to be authentic even when you are not available to encourage them in this direction. As Brene Brown says, “Talk to yourself as if you were talking to someone you love.”
- Model authentic behavior as well as a brave attitude when faced with challenges yourself so that you can teach through example as well as words.
- Use the examples found in the lives of well known people who have followed their own vision and mission rather than conform to the expectations of others.
It’s not easy being the new kid at school, especially if you are a cat and everyone else is a dog. How do you make friends? Can you even be friends with someone who is totally different from you? Wyatt the Wonder Dog helps solve Ami’s friendship problem with empathy and compassion. A great story for teaching children the critical life skill of making friends.
Feeling left out? Need help getting along with friends? Wyatt the Wonder Dog books weave important life skills into engaging story telling. Join Wyatt as he learns how to be the superhero in his group of friends by using cooperation and compromise.~MaryFrances Gonzalez MACCC-SLP