When Family Members Get Competitive.


Dear Mouthy Housewives,

I have a three year-old girl that's polite, (mostly) well behaved, and interacts well with other kids. My husband and I work very hard to instill good values. But she is three and certainly has her moments. The problem is that whenever my SIL comes over with her 3 year-old son, she always comments on how "easy" my daughter is and how her son is so much more difficult. It frustrates me that she constantly tries to make a competition out of our children. How can I gently remind her that it's not harder OR easier, it's just different?


My Kid Isn't Better, Just Different


Gold Medal

Dear My Kid Isn't Better, Just Different,

It seems there might be a few things going on here. First, it sounds like your sister-in-law and her son are challenging you and your daughter to a contest. I once read about this maze that was constructed to see who, out of the two competitors, was the smartest. Apparently, at the end the winner would get food while the loser got an electrical shock. You can look it up inParents Weekly. Oh, wait. Maybe it was in Experimental Psychology Monthly and the subjects were rats? I don’t know. I can’t remember everything! Sheesh! My point is, rodents and kids are similar and you can use them for experiments or to settle old scores where the winner takes all and the loser shuts the heck up.

Secondly, it is important for both you and your sister-in-law to recognize that there are most certainly differences between girls and boys. In general terms, girls tend to be more stationary, interested in the complexities of social interaction, and much more detail oriented in play while boys explore the world around them in far more physical terms. To someone who has a boy it could seem that your daughter is an “easier” child, even if this is, in fact, not true.

Whenever she brings this up to you I suggest acknowledging the differences between the two children while subtly explaining to her that different does not, under any circumstances, equal easier. Every child has moments of insanity and def-con 5 meltdowns, they may take varied forms or happen at different times but they do happen. You can try and give her a few examples. That being said, you shouldn’t have to bend over backward to make her see your point of view. Sometimes, we just have to take solace in our own knowledge that we work hard too even if others don’t always see it.

Another thing that could be going on here is that your sister-in-law may be insecure about her own mothering (aren’t we all?) and, unfortunately, her way of dealing with these unpleasant thoughts is to compare her child to others. This way of sizing up her child’s progress and her challenges as a mother are coping mechanisms (they are also very human). Since children do not come with an instruction manual we all have different ways of figuring out if we are doing a good job as parents. Perhaps, if you reinforced some of her decisions as a mom, for example, saying something like: “Wow, the way you calmly handled little Timmy’s meltdown was really amazing,” may help to alleviate some of the mothering anxiety she seems to feel around you.

Good Luck,

Tonya, TMH

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