“The best way to damage a child’s self-esteem is to compare him or her to another child”
That’s really interesting. I have written a number of essays around the idea that “success” should be internally judged. However, I never made the obvious jump to your simple rule! As the male figure in our home, I give myself more license to challenge my daughter than if I were the primary source of nurturance. One of the ways I let this occur is by comparisons. I rarely, if ever, compare her negatively to somebody else (as in “You need to try harder, like Sally”). I can see how that’s not healthy at any level. I do occasionally compare her rare extreme behaviors to her more notorious friends’ behaviors (as in “Is this Annie we invited to dinner? Somebody is sure behaving like Annie!”). My daughter FLIPS when I do that. I’ve never understood why it provokes such a strong reaction so you’ve given me a lot to ponder. In any event, I think your rule is solid and will incorporate it into my ruleset.
Having said that, I do think we can teach children to learn from others. “Isn’t it great how Debbie keeps her desk so neat?” or “Why do you think Jessie looks so comfortable on stage?” Or to the negative, “What did you think of Susan’s behavior at recess? Why do you think she did that? Is there anything we can learn from it?” As part of those lessons, it’s also good to remind all concerned that everybody has their stronger and weaker moments. The challenge is to know the difference and fight for the best we have to give.