This week I am going to run a lengthy article that I wrote a few years ago about comparing our children’s behavior with others’ behavior—and the results of that comparison. If you have read Training for Triumph newsletters or articles at our TFT website, you might have already read this. I will give it in five “digests” since it is lengthy.
Even though it is long—and is a “re-run”—I think it’s worth repeating. As Christian parents, we can get caught up in the comparison game very quickly, without realizing the dangers of it—the dangers from thinking we are inferior AND the dangers of thinking we are superior. Thanks for joining us!
“Only By Comparison”
By Donna Reish
Many years ago I found a comic strip that became our family’s mantra. In it, Blondie and Dagwood sat at a restaurant with their four children. The kids misbehaved mildly—spilling drinks, bickering over the orange crayon, and asking for something expensive. However, in the background of the Bumstead’s restaurant booth, other little ones were out of control everywhere—swinging from the chandelier, standing on the table, throwing food from high chairs, and screaming. A couple approached Blondie and Dagwood and commented on how well-behaved their children were, to which the tired parents smiled and then turned to their offspring and said those words that ring too true: “Only by comparison.”
Through our years of parenting seven young children (especially once we had four or more eight and under), we were often stopped in public (as many large families are) and told that our children were behaving well. They sit so nicely. They don’t talk in church. They aren’t fighting when they get in or out of the van. And through the years we have told our children two things: Only by comparison and If your behavior was really good, someone would pay for our dinner like they did for the Prides. (Mary Pride, homeschool and family author, wrote in an article over twenty years ago that someone paid for her family’s meal not once, but twice, on the same vacation, due to well-behaved children.)
Those two lines became our family’s jokes through the years—we only look like we have well-behaved children because compared to biting, screaming, thrashing kids, you guys are great! People only think you are being quiet because compared to the noise level around us, you kids are practically whispering. And the old—when you guys are really, really good in a restaurant, we’ll know it because someone will pay for our meal.
Without even saying (or thinking) the phrase, Only by comparison, Christian parents today often pat themselves on the back, rejoice, and sometimes, dare I say it, even gloat—because compared to much of children’s behavior that is permitted today, our kids are doing okay. And we develop a false sense of security in our children’s Christian development and a Pharisaical attitude about our parenting.