to discourage competitive parenting

(55 Posts)
seoladair Fri 04-Jan-13 19:14:00

This is a trivial issue in comparison to many of the problems on this board, but I would appreciate some wise MN advice.

My oldest friend and I had our babies 6 days apart. It was lovely to share our experiences during pregnancy and early motherhood. We live far away from each other but keep in regular touch by text and see each other occasionally.

Now the girls are 19 months, I feel she has started to get a bit competitive. She doesn't mean any harm, and is a lovely person so I want to deal with it tactfully.

Example - she wants to set up, in her words, an interesting experiment whereby we both try to teach the girls to play Twinkle,twinkle on the piano every day as part of their daily routine. At the end of a few months, we meet up to see which girl is better at it. (I said no to this.)

Today she texted me to say she had had a proud mummy moment when she explained to the mother of a 3 year-old that her 19 month-old can recognise numbers from 1-10. Apparently the other mum said her 3 year-old can't do that.

I haven't replied yet, but will probably just say "well done, that's great." and am unsure what to say. I want our girls to grow up as friends, and really don't want this element of competitiveness to spoil things. My little girl can recognise letters on her alphabet board, but I don't kid myself that it means she can read - she's just doing it spatially.

My friend is so thrilled to be a mum, and I don't want to be churlish, but I am keen to nip the comparisons and competitiveness in the bud while the girls are still little. Please advise....

Chottie Sat 05-Jan-13 06:22:20

I think your friend sounds a bit insecure. Do you think she is trying to live through her child and if her child is a 'super child' she can bask in the reflected glory?

AreYouADurtBirdOrALadyBird Sat 05-Jan-13 06:57:41

I think my kids are great but I doubt everyone else does. I have a friend whose dd is two weeks older than my dd. My dd seemed to reach stages before her did,so she became very competitive. She used to ask what dd could do all the time. It was exhausting. She ended up potty training her dd,IMO before she was ready and she is still having frequent accidents 6 months later. I trained mine this week. I'm dreading her asking about training cause it went really well and dd hasn't had an an accident since the first day.

FergusSingsTheBlues Sat 05-Jan-13 07:03:15

My sister and i are notoriously competitive and have been since childhood, and when she had her baby (after me, natch....JOKE) we had a very honest discussion about competitiveness between us and vowed to eachother not to become competituve about our boys.we love eachother and our kids and so far have stuck to it.

gimmecakeandcandy Sat 05-Jan-13 07:55:07

She sounds like a pita and will alienate a lot of people

Please listen to all of perriwinkle's advice as it is excellent. So true that you should not go round boasting what your child can do. Just keep it to close family. My child did some things very early but I didn't feel the need to say 'look'! 'Look'!
My friend has an 18 month old who is a very clever little girl and she can speak like a three year old and do things in a very advanced way but she is not one to boast or say anything like that. That's the way to be. No one wants to hear it, it's boring. I'll comment on something I see sometimes but no one wants a running commentary.

Tell your mate her attitude is tiresome and you are not interested in competitions. Just tell her straight and nip it in the bud now.

fairylightsandtinsel Sat 05-Jan-13 08:06:15

I agree that its helpful to know where others of the same age are at but I tend to do it in reverse , "blimey can your DD do X already? wow mine is still..." (and only with close friends). This then tends to prompt a response like "yes, but X can't do .. which your's is" and so on. Its still comparing but not competitive.

SleighbellsRingInYourLife Sat 05-Jan-13 08:23:14

"Example - she wants to set up, in her words, an interesting experiment whereby we both try to teach the girls to play Twinkle,twinkle on the piano every day as part of their daily routine. At the end of a few months, we meet up to see which girl is better at it. (I said no to this.)"

shock grin

That is so fucking weird.

Can you imagine making forcing your child to play twinkle twinkle on the piano every day part of your routine?!

With a 19 month old?

You suggest just putting them in a ring together to battle it out. grin

I didn't really believe in competitive parenting of toddlers until this moment.

Megatron Sat 05-Jan-13 08:29:46

I think this kind of thing can actually be quite damaging.

I have worked with a child from when she was around 2 years old and she is now almost 5. Her parents are lovely people but they are so competitive with her it's beyond ridiculous. I have actually found them cornering other parents to ask them what their children can do, would they like to come round so that their little darling can 'teach' theirs to count to 10 etc.

Now their child is struggling slightly as her parents are never off her back (and yes we have had conversations about it, she's 4 ffs) and the poor little thing simply cannot deal with it if she cannot do something absolutely perfectly. It's such a shame and I think parents who behave in this way regularly can really be setting their children up for a fall.

SleighbellsRingInYourLife Sat 05-Jan-13 08:40:31

"the poor little thing simply cannot deal with it if she cannot do something absolutely perfectly."

That might just be a function of her age, my 4 yo is like this.

I'm always having to tell her that making mistakes helps you figure out out to do things well.

But I'm grin at inviting children over so your kid can reach them how to count.

Not competing on how many friends you child has, huh? grin

Megatron Sat 05-Jan-13 08:47:27

I really feel for her Sleighbells, it's a very extreme reaction that I've never seen before. My own DD gets stressy and cross if she can't do something properly but not to the same degree. This child will take her anguish out on the other children too (physicaly sometimes) and will throw herself at mum at pick up time, sobbing. Mummy will sympathise and coo 'never mind darling, we'll practice and practice until there are no more mistakes'. And she doesn't really have any friends because no one wants to play with her/ I'm all for encouraging your children to do well but Jeeeeeeesus.

Teapot13 Sat 05-Jan-13 08:58:05

Is it possible she is just trying to keep in touch? I mean, you now have a massive common interest having DDs the same age. The piano thing is weird but I can see her suggesting a shared activity that the girls can do together. I would try to keep an open mind and be gentle about it -- she probably doesn't realize she's being weird. I wouldn't throw the friendship away over this unless it escalates a lot.

WipsGlitter Sat 05-Jan-13 09:04:59

Tbh unless your planning to make a massive effort to meet up at least weekly and holiday together it's unlikely your girls will be best friends. They will meet up and get on but will have a whole social life in their own school/ area so it won't really be relevant.

The piano thing is bonkers though. Who was going to judge, Andrew Lloyd-Webber?!

Backtobedlam Sat 05-Jan-13 09:09:56

It's always risky being too competitive and boastful at such a young age, as a child who was very advanced at 19 months could be lagging behind by 4yrs. All children develop at their own rate, so her dd may be ahead in something initially, then your dd overtakes and so on for many years, competing over this just gets exhausting for all involved. I'd just ignore, ignore, ignore and don't get drawn into comparing or worrying about progress.

HecatePropolos Sat 05-Jan-13 09:45:56

I suppose laughing your head off and exclaiming "I know, let's race em..." would be out of the question?
grin

Theicingontop Sat 05-Jan-13 09:55:44

I have a friend who does something similar, but gets very upset when her DS isn't doing something that mine is, even though my DS is a couple of months older hmm. I've just learned to never go there, ever. When they're playing, and my DS does something that I know hers can't, I change the conversation immediately or offer a cup of tea. It's so tiring.

You're right to nip it in the bud. You'll probably come off as the 'loser' in her eyes, but that's much better than the perpetual competition she's dreaming you two are engaged in.

I cant bear competitive parenting. SIL tries to engage me it (so is she walking yet...every time we meet, as her dd was an early walker).

My general response to any questions about what dd can do is "no not yet". No excuses needed, or other responses. They can't learn everything in one go.

And im sorry, but, she wanted to teach a 19mo how to.play the piano¿¡?! Is that even possible.

Tigermom.

Oh dear god. Mind you my MIL is still competitive about my husband's abilities as a toddler. He's in his thirties!

Recently I met another mum with a son a couple of weeks older than DD and she was recounting how she had been talking about moving him to formula feeding once she returned to work - allegedly he burst into tears and shouted "mumma milk! Mumma milk", so upset was he at the thought of no longer breastfeeding.

He was 6.5 months!

She also held court on how wonderfully he was eating (making me feel crap since I'd just mentioned that DD still wasn't interested in solids) - would've been more convincing if he hadn't thrown his tagline on the floor and eaten a napkin instead.

I went home and cried til I realised how desperately insecure she was.

I second a bland "how lovely" response and don't engage her further on that front.

...and by tagline I mean tagine!

I though I'd left competitive parents behind as my lot grew. Now I find I have entered the world of ... competitive grandparents! Every bit as tiresome.

I agree with other posters, don't engage.

Tralalalaha Sat 05-Jan-13 12:50:21

Sometimes though it's useful to know what other children are doing. My pfb is massively behind her peers in terms of language and social skills and I had no bleeding idea for ages because I was never around other children her age. I was all excited that she could read letters and count at eighteen months. It didn't occur to me until much later that maybe she should have spoken more, or been more interested in other kids.

Your friend sounds a bit odd though - maybe she thinks her DD is a genius and wants to confirm the theory? You can tell her from me that my DD could play twinkle twinkle little star at 2 on the piano. She's still not bleeding potty trained though.

SolomanDaisy Sat 05-Jan-13 12:58:34

I can't believe anyone suggested the piano thing with 19 month olds. Their hands aren't big enough for one thing. I agree with sticking to father and grandparents for sharing how brilliant your DCs are. It's easy to get carried away with their genius, because it is amazing how quickly babies turn into these little people who can do things.

Am I the only one who's amused by how many people on this thread criticise competitive parents and use the opportunity to recount how much better their DC is than the competitive parent's?

Proudnscaryvirginmary Sat 05-Jan-13 12:59:42

I have a friend who thinks her 4 month old is a genius (no I am not joking or exaggerating - I'd love to post specifics but it might out me). Whenever she tells me baby's latest incredible achievement, I either say 'ahhhhh' in a very obviously 'I'm not really listening' kind of way or I say 'it's lovely when they all get to that stage' in a 'yes they all do X at around this stage'.

Re this text I'd ignore or say something sarky like 'wow amazing - my dd's still a total thicko'.

Or if you want to bring it to a head, 'I feel you are being a bit competitive and I'm not sure how to respond anymore'.

MammaTJ Sat 05-Jan-13 13:08:43

When my DD was 9 1/2 months old, she started walking. My H told me not to tell my DSis as she had a baby a month older and he could imagine her loading a ruck sack with rocks and making him go on a route march, she is that competative.

My DS walked at 15 months and DD2 somewhere in between.

Speech was different, DD1 was slower, DD2 the fastest at picking it up. DS in between.

All children do different things at different times. At 6,7 and 17 they all pretty much do what they are meant to.

Don't engage in the competitions, then she will not get the victories she obviously craves.

exoticfruits Sat 05-Jan-13 13:19:18

Don't take part-stick with the 'broken record' approach of 'they are all different' and change the subject.

DeckSwabber Sat 05-Jan-13 13:29:22

Do tell her - its horrible being around people like this and it will only get worse when the children get older. What is annoying for you now could be really hurtful to children later on as they will pick up on it. What is she going to be like over GCSEs?

I have one friend who is like this (a bit) and I usually say something along the lines of how hard it is to find the right balance between believing in your children and placing a huge burden on them in terms of your expectations. My job is to help them to find their path in life, whatever it might be.

My SiL once told me - rater scarily - that she was always going to tell her son he's the best because no-one else would. I told her she was committing her child to a lifetime sense of failure as anything less than 100% would not be good enough, but he could never exceed her expectations and therefore make her really proud.

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