This comparison trap seems to start when we're first pregnant and we compare ourselves to other pregnant moms (weight gain, cuteness factor, whether or not they eat lunchmeat or tuna while pregnant...you know, important things like that). Then it moves to the birthing stage, where we compare birthing stories ("Ohhhh, you had to have a c-section? I'm sorry.....I had my baby on my living room floor" and things like that). Then it moves to the newborn stage ("my baby is 6 days old and can hold his head up high!") and with each stage of mothering, it only seems to get worse.
At some point we start comparing our kids behavior, and trying to find the "key factors" that make good kids or bad kids. And that's where we get all messed up. We see another person's well-behaved child and try to figure out what that parent is doing right and what we're doing wrong. Only there is no prescription for good children (really, there isn't), and we feel like a failure when our child seems worse than our friend's child. We wonder if a certain prescription is the answer - more prayer? Having them memorize verse? Homeschooling them? Staying home full-time? Reading a certain parenting book?
So, in our quest to be the best parents and have the best children on the block, we can inadvertently take way too much credit for something that only God can do. A child's heart is His, and He will move in their hearts despite our best efforts or greatest failures. He is the author of their hearts, whichever school they go to or whatever friends they have. He is the One who can change hard behavior through the Holy Spirit, when we have done everything humanly possible and failed.
We can do our part, but we have to be careful not to take too much credit for what only He can do. Another friend was telling me how another mom called her and said, "On my sons 4th birthday, he accepted Jesus into his heart!" and it wasn't so much excitement that she was sharing, as it was almost a "dig" at the other mother, like a way to compare the two boys. It was a way of trying to take credit for something only God did.
We can also take credit for our kid's behavior based on the choices we have made as parents, giving pride a foothold, silently judging others, assuming that their kids would be better if they had made the same choices.
I'm not saying that we should just give up or throw in the towel and be horrible parents. I'm not saying to NOT make educated, wise choices about who our children are with, what school they go to, what shows they watch, etc... All of those are influential on our children. But let's be careful that we're not taking too much credit for the state of their hearts - something that only God can mold and change. Let's be careful that if He has blessed us with good children, that we are not judging other people who don't have it all together. Let's be careful that we are not patting ourselves on the back too much for things He should be getting all the credit and glory for. Because if there were a prescription for good parenting, only God knows what it is - and what it is for one parent might be drastically different than another.