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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....

Alisvolatpropiis Fri 04-Jan-13 19:17:31

Just don't engage with it,say "oh that's lovely,well done x" and move the conversation along.

MrsRajeshKoothrappali Fri 04-Jan-13 19:18:01

I wouldn't bother replying.

Competative parents are exhausting.....!!

Euphemia Fri 04-Jan-13 19:18:07

Text her "Really? Chimps can remember the location and order of a set of numbers in less time than it takes the average human to blink."


No, really - just don't indulge her.

seoladair Fri 04-Jan-13 19:19:12

Mm yes, but then she comes back and asks me what my daughter can do. I think it's so boring to recite a list of her words and activities!
Maybe I should just say that she's really slow!

seoladair Fri 04-Jan-13 19:20:54

That last message was to Alis.
Mrs and Euphemia - thank you. I think I will ignore.
It's strange - she wasn't competitive at all at school; quite the opposite in fact.

parakeet Fri 04-Jan-13 19:22:26

It sounds like she's a good friend so why not be honest with her? Just say, with a smile on your face, something mild like "Watch out, your turning into one of those competitive mums, ha ha."

Is she actually being competitive? If she is then YANBU

But she could be like me... Prepared to be told IABU, lol I'm just constantly amazed by the little people that my DCs have become, and all the new things they can do, and more new things each day blush
I don't mean to sound competitive or showy offy if I speak to friends about them (I actually try to avoid it as much as possible anyway, as I know how gushy I must sound!) but I genuinely am interested in what their DCs can do too. I think its fascinating.

<backs away to netmums with my two bubs>

seoladair Fri 04-Jan-13 19:28:26

Yes, I think she has no idea. It could be an idea to say jokily to her that she's becoming "one of those mums".
Beyondthe - that sounds right. She is incredibly proud in a good way, and just needs to rein it in a bit. That's why I want to stop it tactfully, rather than crushing her and hurting her feelings. I think I will just ignore!

werewolvesdidit Fri 04-Jan-13 19:28:50

My DS2 could read when he was about 2.5 (just CVC words) - I told my SIL and she gave me a dirty look smile - her DS of similar age can barely talk so I think she was annoyed with me for mentioning it.

Perriwinkle Fri 04-Jan-13 19:29:31

I think that you should just be honest with her and say "look xxx, I really don't want to engage with this whole comparing thing, I want the girls to grow up as to be friends like we are and to be able to appreciate one another's similarities as well as differences". Perhaps you'll also just have to add that you appreciate that this may come across a bit like you're getting "funny" with her but you feel you have to say it because it's how this is making you feel and it's best to get it off your chest now. If she's your oldest friend you should really be able to talk to her frankly.

I actually ditched one of my oldest friends a few years ago because she got on my wick so much. Not for this reason specifically but it was still loosely to do with her being so up herself. It wasn't a particularly easy situation but I weighed it all up and came to the conclusion that life is just too short to spend it being pissed off about stuff like this. Like your friend, she lived miles away from me and we were no longer particularly close so I figured that we both had plenty of other friends to be going on with.

I think that's the way I'd play it anyway. There's absolutely no point in you sitting back and going along with all this if it's getting you down because I can guarantee you, this sort of thing will only get worse the older the children get. Nip it in the bud before it really gets going and if your friend decides to take umbridge about it, that's her problem.

seoladair Fri 04-Jan-13 19:30:10

Beyondthe - Netmumsy sparkles to you! You haven't told us how many years, months, weeks, days and minutes your "bubbas" have clocked up....

JingleUpTheHighway Fri 04-Jan-13 19:30:30

I would be a bit annoyed at the whole piano teaching thing - your girls are not on show !

Just don't indulge her . Agree with the others - say that's good and move on.

My SIL is like this - it drives me insane - if I say anything, you can guarantee that her DC will have done more or even that she won't allow her DC to do that and give some stupid negative points grrr! angry

Anyway - smile , acknowledge and move on .

werewolvesdidit Fri 04-Jan-13 19:30:53

BUT if someone else were to tell me that their child could do something my child couldn't I would just think 'Wow that's great'. People seem to get very shitty if someone 'shows off' about their DC but sometimes you just want to share with people that your child can do something well. I have sadly realised that it usually annoys people sad

HumphreyCobbler Fri 04-Jan-13 19:33:21

the fact that she wanted a COMPETITION between your two DC pretty much rules out innocent enthusiasm for her child's achievements.

She sounds a bit like hard work to me. If you choose to continue your friendship then I would never ever offer any information about what your child can do.

Perriwinkle Fri 04-Jan-13 19:37:47

Another thing I'd like to add is that it's all very well parents "being constantly amazed at what their little people can do" and feeling the need to keep telling others about it but people have to aware that this can, and very often will, come across to others as incredibly boring and boastful.

The best way to play it I feel is to restrict those lovely "sharing moments" about your child's achievements to telling other close family members (your partner/parents/inlaws/) who will be just as thrilled and impressed as you are. If people notice things about your child they will often ask you about them and that's the time to answer any questions they might have - in a modest way.

As your children get older it's a valuable skill to learn because it enables you to teach them about being modest too.

No one likes a show off in any walk of life and a surefire way to ensure that your children are not liked by other children is to instill in them that they should keep sounding off about their achievements.

bluebiscuit Fri 04-Jan-13 19:59:36

I do have a bit of sympathy for the friend. It is good to know what your dc's peer group can do so you know where your own DC is. I am interested in what reading levels the kids in my ds's class are on so that I can see approx. whether he is top/middle/bottom in class. In fact, he was near the bottom so I have been helping him at home to rectify this. Now he is nearer the middle so I feel that I have made a difference by helping him and it has also made him more confident.

That said, it is pretty shocking that she wants to set up this piano competition for a 19mo. That is ott and I am surprised she had the balls to ask! It might calm a little as her dd gets older (?). If it is troubling you, then you will have to say something to her. The fact is that you can train little dc to do things (generalising it is easier to do with a girl) and there's plenty she could train her dc to do. There

everlong Fri 04-Jan-13 20:04:48

19 months old..piano?!? <shakes head>

bluebiscuit Fri 04-Jan-13 20:10:42

I do have a bit of sympathy for the friend. It is good to know what your dc's peer group can do so you know where your own DC is. I am interested in what reading levels the kids in my ds's class are on so that I can see approx. whether he is top/middle/bottom in class. In fact, he was near the bottom so I have been helping him at home to rectify this. Now he is nearer the middle so I feel that I have made a difference by helping him and it has also made him more confident.

That said, it is pretty shocking that she wants to set up this piano competition for a 19mo. That is ott and I am surprised she had the balls to ask! It might calm a little as her dd gets older (?). If it is troubling you, then you will have to say something to her. The fact is that you can train little dc to do things (generalising it is easier to do with a girl) and there's plenty she could train her dc to do. But it doesn't really achieve much at this age. And the dd should be playing instead really.

Another point is that DC will choose own friends. You might want your dds to be friends but they will have to decide that for themselves.

3smellysocks Fri 04-Jan-13 20:11:54

She will really cringe when she looks back on her behavior.

LuluMai Fri 04-Jan-13 21:04:22

A "proud mummy moment"? Boak! She sounds nauseating.

Perriwinkle Fri 04-Jan-13 21:05:35

I totally diasagree that you have to nose into what level other children in your child's class are at. If you want to know about your child's progress - ask their class teacher who is, after al,l the the person best placed to express a professional and well-informed opinion on where they are at and what can be done to encourage or assist them at home, if they need it.

It has never ever occured to me over the years to enquire about what other children are up to (either from their parents or from a class teacher) in order to assess my own child's progress or abilities.

It is none of my concern what other children can do.

I also have strong opinions on these "altruistic" parents who supposedly give up their free time to go into their child's class to listen to the children read. We all know that this is simply a vehicle to see what their own child is up to in comparison to their peers.

WhoPutTheDickOnTheSnowman Sat 05-Jan-13 02:49:24

My best friend had her PFB late 2011 and she is just ridiculous.
I let her get on with it until Dc was about 14 months and then had a frank discussion with her. I said I loved her, loved the baby but she had to realise that she is really isn't the only woman in the world that thinks her child is wonderful - we all think that.
I also gently reminded her that we have lots of friends with DC that are having health issues or developmental delays and while I don't give a hoot any more (as I have heard it all really and it's water off a duck's back) they may be more inclined to start engaging with her again if she emerged from her own arse a bit. You don't love your baby more than anyone else loves theirs, other people just have other things to talk about as well as their DC.

She was one of those that would hijack any FB status with the baby - the worst one was a friend announcing the date of their mother's funeral and she had the lack of self awareness to say 'oh no, that's DD's birthay, does that mean you won't be coming to her party?' and then wondered out loud of they could change the funeral plans - seriously.

It can be a favour to point out that you are doing yourself and your child no favours and to keep to the 'there's a time and a place' rule. Most people will enjoy talking child at the appropriate time and then move on; most people will be thrilled child is doing XYZ if it is discussed positively and without the, usually insecure, trill that they are somehow a supergenius universal wonder.

Is she insecure or worried about anything? Or just a bit insulated in her own small mummy bubble?

Ignore, see if she'll get over herself, doesn't sound like it, have a frank but kind chat and see how it pans out. My friend is getting shedloads more support and engaging child conversation now she isn't being a dafty. Good luck.

Arseface Sat 05-Jan-13 03:17:15

I have a lovely friend who does this. She adopted her son when I had DS1 (13) and was told her DS might have all sorts of issues. He's thankfully fine but her natural anxiety led her to compare and become pretty competitive.

Would feel incredibly cruel pointing this out to her so I've always either sidestepped it or wrongfooted it by laughing affectionately about something my DS is rubbish at (football usually).

If I haven't seen her for a while she will get into it again but it's easy to stop without hurting her feelings. Just don't feed the beast!

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?

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 the piano¿¡?! Is that even possible.


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.

Peevish Sat 05-Jan-13 13:32:14

That sounds very tiresome, OP, though I'm giggling at the idea of a 19-month-olds' piano contest...

I come from the opposite school of parenting in that it genuinely never occurs to me to tell anyone other than close family and friends anything new my nine-month-old is doing - I assume the rest of the world doesn't give a shiny shite. I was completely taken aback a few months back when two members of my NCT group rounded on me and kept going on about why oh why hadn't I texted round and told the rest of them my baby was sitting up already...?

It had never even struck me they would be interested - if we are going by due dates, he should be the oldest of the group (though he didn't come out for weeks), so it's not that surprising he does certain things before the others...

LynetteScavo Sat 05-Jan-13 13:41:13

Sorry, I can't stop laughing that she wanted you both to teach your one year old to play twinkle twinkle. grin

I am less of a person than you, I would have taken on the challenge, done nothing all day everyday except tutor my DC in playing twinkle twinkle to enusre next time we met up I mu DC won.

I too wasn't competitive at school, but came quite competitive when I had DC1. I think it was because I realised he rolled, crawled, walked, talked and recognised numbers and words quite early. So, speaking from experience, there is only one way to shut up a mother like this...beat them at their own game and make out your DC is way more advanced. Lie if you need to.

Or you could be mature like the other posters on this thread, and don't engage.

BTW, I have calmed down since having 2 more DC, and realised different DC have different talents.

badguider Sat 05-Jan-13 13:47:58

I would go for the 'oh dear no, that might seem a bit like we are comparing them and of course we all know that good parents never compare children against each other, they're all wonderful in their own different ways' approach grin

seoladair Sat 05-Jan-13 22:03:38

Brilliant set of responses, and I've had a good laugh!
I have decided not to reply. Hopefully she will get the hint!

Perriwinkle Sun 06-Jan-13 18:59:37

Believe me - she won't.

People like this do not get the hint and you have to spell it out to them - very clearly.

Good luck.

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