Asking for a Friend: Help! How do I get my parents to stop comparing me to other people?

  • Each week, we respond to a question from our readers and give advice and resources they can turn to
  • This week, we help a student being pressured by their family to be more like their friends
YPDannie Aildasani |

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It’s not fair for your parents to compare you to other people. Photo: Shutterstock

Need an answer to a personal question that you’ve never mustered the courage to ask? We’ve been there. Whether it is about school, family issues or social life, share your thoughts with us. If you have a question you’d like answered (about anything at all), please fill out this Google Form. Don’t worry – you will remain anonymous!

Dear Friend,

How can I tell my parents to stop comparing me to other kids my age, like my cousins or my friends? It is quite annoying since we are good at different things, and it puts a lot of pressure on me.

Signed, Compared

Dear Compared,

It’s so frustrating to be compared to other people, especially by your parents. Being told that you should be like someone else implies that you’re not good enough, and that simply isn’t true. As you said, everyone is good at different things!

Please remember that when a parent makes comparisons or says you should be like someone else, it’s usually not about you at all: it’s pressure from society, another friend or relative, or stems from insecurity within themselves. However, it doesn’t excuse their actions and isn’t fair to you. Here are some tips we hope can help:

My parents argue a lot, and it feels like I don’t have a happy family

Calm down before saying anything

It’s never a good idea to react in the heat of the moment – it’s too easy to say something without thinking it through and regret it later. The next time your parents try to compare you to someone else, take a deep breath. Resist the urge to respond with an insult or comparison of your own. Excuse yourself and do something relaxing - this will help you think through your response better and speak to your parents more thoughtfully.

“Take a deep breath” is actually pretty good advice for most things. Photo: Shutterstock

Set your own standards

Everyone compares themselves to other people. Without thinking about your friends or cousins, list your skills and goals – the things that are important to you. Maybe you’re bad at maths, but enjoy English class and work hard to get a good grade. Or perhaps you don’t have a large group of friends because you prefer to have fewer friends with closer relationships. These are all perfectly fine and valid. Outline your goals, list the skills you have that will help you reach them, and keep these handy when you talk to your parents.

I didn’t accomplish most of my goals last year. How can I improve in 2023?

Talk to your parents

After you’ve had time to think, chat with your parents. Be polite and tell them it doesn’t make you feel very good when they compare you to other kids. Talk about your goals and talents, and say you hope they can support you and help you achieve your dreams. If it’s too hard to talk to them one-on-one, you can ask a friend or someone else you trust to join your chat or even write them a letter.

Hopefully, they will be receptive to what you say and agree to stop comparing you to other people. If not, please remember what we said before: their comparisons stem from their own insecurities and don’t have anything to do with you. Keep your list of skills and goals somewhere you can see every day to remind yourself of all the great things you can do – and will do in the future.

You’ve got this, Friend of a Friend

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