Islamic Perspective: Negative Effects of Child Comparison

It is an indisputable fact that every parent wants their children to be successful and be the best but so many of of us fail to recognize that each child, even a twin brother exists individual differences and hence we found that our society filled with toxic parents–grandparents, family members, teachers and neighbors who habitually compare a child to siblings or other children they know.

Individual differences are found in all psychological characteristics physical mental abilities, knowledge, habit, personality and character traits.” There is great divine wisdom in that, and it is indicative of Allah’s great power and failure to admit this fact result to some parents fallen into comparison trap.

  • Why can’t you memorize this surah faster than so-and-so?
  • Look at Mr. Luqman’s son! He took the 1st position in his class!
  • Why can’t you this and why can’t you do that….?

These are some of the negative expression’s we parents used to instigate the spirit of competition/comparison between our children and others. Some parents believe that it’s a means to improve their child’s growth and development but a key to sadness and destroyer of joy within and outside the family and consequently many parents run the risk of losing sight of what makes their child special and unique.

Rather than set realistic benchmarks to track our child’s progress, growth and development and supporting them if the need arises, we raise our expectations so high that we become ungrateful and make destructive criticism towards our children, which might lead to ingratitude to Allaah and forgetting His bounty favors upon us. Remember the verse of the Noble Qur’aan that says:
“… and be grateful to Allaah, if it is Him you worship.”
(Surah al-Baqarah 2:172).
He [Allaah ‘azza wajall] says:

“And if you would count the favors of Allaah, never could you be able to count them. Truly, Allah is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful” [16:18]

Some parents chose to favor one child they feel is doing well to spite the other. This favoritism only sows’ seeds of jealousy, resentment, and hatred among their children. This action negates the teachings of the prophet as the Prophet (Sallal-Allaahu Alayhi wa Sallam) said:

“Your children have the right of receiving equal treatment, as you have the right that they should honor you.” (Abu Dawood)

“Whoever would like his provision to be increased and his lifespan extended, let him uphold his ties of kinship.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5639 and Muslim, 2557)

In another narration, It was narrated that al-Nu‘maan ibn Basheer (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: My father took me to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said:

“O Messenger of Allaah, bear witness that I have given such and such of my wealth to al-Nu‘maan.” He said: “Did you give to all your children the same as you have given to al-Nu‘maan?” He said: “No.” He said: “Let someone else bear witness to that for you.” Then he said: “Would you not like all your children to honor you equally?” He said: “Yes.” He said: “Then no (I will not bear witness).”
Narrated by Muslim (3059).

Comparing your child to other children will surely cause a grievous effect on the child in question and specifically between such children and their parents and between others in general.
Some of the negative consequences or effects of child comparison are as follows:

  • Leads to withdrawal and Lose of self-worth which will make him feel lesser than his peers.
  •  Leads to sadness feel inferior and vulnerable to bullies around him eventually become a failure who see no reason to improve.
  • The children in question will be discouraged from succeeding or advancing in both religious and worldly terms.
  •  It may cause them to suffer psychological or physical illness.
  •  It may lead to resentment against the favored sibling, which may go as far as murder!
  •  Kills confidence and indirectly seeing themselves as losers.
  • Kills the joys that may exist between parents-children’s relationships.

Due to negative results that evolve from child comparison, it is expected of parents to realize that as much as they are not a perfect being, they should not think that other children are perfect and thereby expecting a perfect child.. They should control the way they compare their children; correct rather criticize destructively and remember that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The ruler is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. A man is the shepherd of his family and is responsible for his flock. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s household and is responsible for her flock.” [Sahih Muslim]

For these reasons, parents should:

  • First pray for their children that Allaah guide them through their affairs.
  • Show them unconditional love and support.
  • Parents / Guardians should encourage their children without mentioning anyone in particular, because comparing him with a sibling or a fellow who is better than him in this case would generate enmity between them.
  • Celebrate their improvement and work on their weaknesses.
  • Establish them on self-worth/self-belief and encourage them to be intrinsically motivated, rather.
  • Communicate with them often and seek their opinion on ways to make it right.
  • Give them the opportunity low them take chance, make choices, and take responsibility.
  • Praise their strength and effort allow them to demonstrate their competence,
  •  Make their contribution valuable and giving them responsibilities.
  •  And above all be merciful to them as narrated by Abdullah ibn Amr who reported: The Messenger of Allaah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“The merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.” Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 1924

May Allaah increase Our Children In Knowledge; direct their affairs and Make Them The Coolness Of Our Eyes. Aameen.