Comparing and Competitive Parenting

7 Feb

Growing up, a good friend of mine had one of those mothers. Her kids were smarter, faster, kinder, busier, and always better than any other kids in the school.  And if it was proven that they weren’t the best in some instance, it was, of course, for the best that they weren’t the best. You know, if  her daughter didn’t get the lead in the school play (the part she auditioned for), it was wonderful because then she had time to finish that cure for cancer she had been working on.

Unfortunately, Perfect Child, and I enjoyed the same activities  and often enjoyed doing them together.  Oftentimes, our mothers would take turns dropping us off/picking us up from said activities. For eight years, almost every time I’d stick my head into their minivan to climb into the seat in the waaaaay back, I’d be quizzed on how many girl scout badges I had, what I got on the 7th grade geography quiz, or who had asked me to freshman year homecoming.  Perfect Child would always apologize profusely after we’d arrived at our destination.  It was frustrating and disheartening to both of us.  Her mother created a rivalry between us that just didn’t exist, and the two of us dreaded for it to be manifested on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons.  We swore together that we’d never do that to our children.

Competitive parenting is obviously unhealthy, and does no good for parent or child.  But the behavior that starts that competitiveness is something that perhaps all parents do – comparing.  We start when our children are  infants, innocently comparing their sizes, features, and sleeping and eating habits.  It continues as they roll over, sit up, and start toddling.  We think, “So-and-so’s baby started scooting a month ago, and my baby hasn’t shown signs of desiring mobility.  Is she normal?”  It’s not that we (okay, I), don’t think my child is strong and intelligent.  It’s not that I’d prefer to be the parent of the other child.  Actually, I don’t think it’s about the child at all.  It’s about the parent- me.  It’s about my insecurities as a mother.

Am I not feeding her enough or properly? She’s not growing like the rest of the babies.  Am I not teaching her proper behaviors?  She doesn’t sit still like other children. Am I not teaching her the right things?  She doesn’t know that cows say “Moo!” like the child next to her. It’s not about what the child is or isn’t, or what the other child is or isn’t, it’s about what I am or am not.  Am I giving Adeline the tools to succeed and not struggle?

Our children are fearfully and wonderfully made.  They are individuals with wants, needs, likes, and dislikes, and they deserve to be allowed that individuality.   Isn’t that, my friends, what we as parents can do for our children?  Teach them that they are special, and wonderful, and important?  That they are not categorized by their downfalls or lack of ability in this or that area.  We can assure our success as parents by ensuring that our children know their own strengths and abilities, and how they can bless others by them.

Comparing is something that I dabble in more often than I should, but I am always quick to remember the extremities it can carry to.  My friend’s “failures” were magnified by my successes, and her successes were never as sweet as they should have been because she could “always do better.”  My job is to build Adeline up, foster her hopes and dreams, and to never, never, knock her down. What do my trivial comparisons do?  Whether she knows I’m doing it or not, it puts me into a terrible habit and puts her in danger.  Whether I am too boastful or not  proud enough, she will someday see that her worth or value in my eyes depends upon how she compares to the kid next to her.

So when the other eighteen-month old at church is sitting quietly through liturgy with the rest of the congregation, while Adeline spins in circles, falls on the ground, and hops in the cry room, I will not wish she could be like ‘that’.  I will not feel boastful when I see that her vocabulary is larger than some of her peers.  When she and her friends bound into the Moore mini-van, I pray they will expect deserved praise and encouragement as the priceless, incomparable individuals that they are.

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One Response to “Comparing and Competitive Parenting”

  1. Kris February 10, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

    I find the minute I judge another person’s child my children will do something infinitely worse.

    Here’s to non-competitive parenting!

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