Kids & Parenting
Competition Among Moms
by Merryl Lentz
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There are many sports in which women compete with each other but, while not a sport, being a mom can be just as competitive. Instead of viewing their child's milestones as personal successes, moms view them as competitive achievements that make their child better, smarter and more advanced than other children.
However, rather than elevating children, competition tends to belittle them. When you measure your child against someone else's accomplishments, you demean them. You reduce them to little more than a determiner of success or failure. When a diva mom relays her daughter's most recent accomplishments, it's better to simply smile and say, "That's great," instead of getting sucked into this woman's game.
Where you can find competitive parents, you can usually find competitive children. However, do you really want yourself and your child to determine their worth by how they measure up to the class, rather than through their own individual accomplishments? Your child needs places where they can discover their strengths, take lessons from their weaknesses, and cultivate their own sense of self. They don't need everything in which they participate to be a winner-take-all competitive match.
If you lead your child to believe that they have to win at everything, they'll never meet your expectations -- and the only thing you both will gain is misery. Instead, frequently compliment your child on how proud they make you. And when other mothers try to one-up you, refuse to take the bait. Remember that the Bible says in Matthew 19:30, "But many who are first will be last, and the last first."
When you're involved in competitive parenting, you're not enjoying your kids -- you're treating them like contestants who have to beat all the other kids at everything. If all of your time is consumed with evaluating your child against their peers, you're not appreciating them for who they genuinely are. Take the time to appreciate what really makes them unique -- not just what you want them to be. Think about all the qualities they possess that bring you joy.
Competition drains the joy right out of parenting. Rather than competing, look for the joy in parenting for at least several minutes out of your day. You can't change the competitive moms around you, but you can change how you react -- or don't react -- to them. Don't permit competitive parenting to become a dominant force in your family's life.
Keep in mind that milestone achievement is relative. After all, Albert Einstein was thought to be mentally disabled because he didn't speak until he was four years old. Just because your friend's daughter is forming complete sentences at 9 months of age doesn't mean that your daughter should be doing the same. If your child's pediatrician is satisfied with your child's development, then that's the only opinion you need to concern yourself with. Instead of looking for how they measure up against other children their age, relax and enjoy the phase of life that they're currently in.
This will also teach you to listen to experts, rather than to competitive moms who derive pleasure from bragging about how quickly their child learned to read or get potty trained. Sometimes this is a sneaky way of saying how smart the mom is, while other times it's about pointing out that their child is smarter than the other children.
Remember that parenting is not a competition, and avoid turning it into one. Parenting is a responsibility and a demonstration of love, but it's not a race to some arbitrary finish line. Your mission is to raise a healthy, happy, self-assured child, regardless of how other moms are raising their children.
When you find yourself comparing your child to other moms' children, stop yourself as quickly as possible. If you can cease making comparisons, you'll be a freer individual, and your child will benefit, as well. By example, you're teaching your child how to deal with social pressure, and that includes how you deal with competition.
Keep in mind that kids develop at different rates, and are blessed with different gifts, so forcing competition between them is unnecessary and pointless pressure. In every group of children there are early developers, late bloomers, and steady-as-you-go kids that negate comparisons. Concentrate on your child's improvements and efforts, and use your own child's results -- not someone else's child's -- as the standard for their progress and development. For example, you could say something like, "Your math is much better now than it was last month."
As well as developing at different rates, every child is blessed with different gifts. While one mom's child may have an aptitude for sports, your child may show signs of musical abilities. Don't try to force your child into sports in order to "one up" the other mom. Instead, let your youngster develop their talents naturally, while supplying love and support to them during their journey. This is a far greater gift than any trophy or medal.
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