How to Deal with Competitive Parents

Parents are bombarded with information from the media, family, friends, other parents, and schools about the best way to give children their start in life. The multitude of choices can push them into unhealthy competitive behavior and take the fun out of raising children. Consider these points as you deal with the constant comparisons.

Think Global

Professional achievement, wealth, beauty, family, and fame are pervasive success memes in modern Western society. In other countries, spirituality, self-sacrifice, craftsmanship, or health of the community as a whole, are the most valuable indications of success. There are as many ways to achieve greatness as there are people. When faced with competitive parents, remember they are using a very narrow definition of success.

Think Individual

Perhaps your children struggle with handwriting, hate all the activities you suggest, and would rather watch TV than anything else. Each child is a unique individual dealing with their own internal world and searching for the best way to engage with their outer reality. Space, time, support, and unconditional love allow them to develop in their own way at their own time. Reinforce this view if faced with public comparisons of your child with any other child; it is always “apples to oranges.”

Compassion for Comparison

Judgment and comparison are important skills in our consumer economy.  We must develop the ability to make choices and set goals if we are to survive. This complexity can overwhelm parents when looking at their vulnerable child and push them into a competitive mindset. They may feel if their child is not achieving in a particular domain, they are doomed for life. Have compassion for their fears. When you trust your child and see competition as a game, your light-heartedness is a model those parents may never have seen before.

Parenting by Program

Our strongest models for family are created in our own childhoods. People born into competitive families may interpret pressure and comparison as love. They may be trying to live out their own dreams through their child’s life. Or they may be responding to a need they see in their own child for competitive pressure. It is impossible to know why parents behave the way they do. All we can do is make a conscious decision about our own parenting choices and avoid judging others. Find creative ways to minimize negative results you see from competitive behavior.

When people are comparing each other, they are missing the point – we are all different. Each child should be encouraged to work on their personal goals and encourage others to do the same. Celebrate the amazing variety of humanity and the infinite ways to succeed.