I hate myself for constantly comparing my two children

The Japan News

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a part-time worker in my 30s, and I’m filled with self-loathing because I can’t stop comparing my two children.

I have a daughter in her first year of elementary school and a younger son. My son is academically accomplished as he could read and write hiragana and katakana by the age of 2. He is now into mentally challenging games such as shogi. I am proud of my son, who is often praised by others.

My daughter, on the other hand, doesn’t have any particular strengths. She watches television whenever she has free time. I get frustrated, wondering why my daughter can’t do what my son can. I know I shouldn’t compare the children, but I can’t help but say to her, “Why can’t you do things like your brother does?” I hate myself for saying it.

It may be my selfish belief that my daughter can’t do anything well. She is a pure-hearted and gentle person. She loves her family, and my son loves her. What should I do?

—C, Saitama Prefecture

Dear Ms. C:

We all compare ourselves with others. Unless you have solid self-esteem, however, you can either suffer from a sense of inferiority or be filled with a misguided feeling of superiority. Furthermore, I believe the damage done to children who grow up being compared with their siblings on a daily basis based on their parents’ one-sided standards is quite serious.

At least you are aware that you are hurting your daughter, and you also recognize her good qualities. You must have felt quite frustrated because you are too focused on your son’s excellence.

Actually, I am more concerned about your son. I’m worried that he will continue to shoulder the burden of your expectations and lose his pleasant characteristics. I’m worried that he will stress himself out in trying to meet his parents’ expectations.

You are obsessed with comparing your children because you are too concerned about what others think. To put it bluntly, I think that shows your own lack of self-confidence.

Before you “boast” of your son to others, you should reflect on yourself. By thinking of your many shortcomings, perhaps you may learn to be more tolerant of your children’s inadequacies. And, of course, you can truly appreciate the excellence of your children. This is my message to you with the intention of including some self-discipline.

—Masami Ohinata, university president