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Advice for dealing with ultra competitive friend (re kids)

(17 Posts)
oohdaddypig Sun 12-Jan-14 15:45:07

a good friend and I have been friends for years; met through shared interest in sport (so she is naturally competitive). Have had our kids at the same time.

We live in the same village and have no family nearby so meet a lot - at least weekly.

I'm naturally quite a modest person ie keep my achievements to myself - she is the reverse and it's never been an issue - until now.

Every time we meet I'm given an update on her kids' latest high achievements. It is in the nature of "johnny is sooo advanced he is having to be given special attention in football/singing/tiddlywinks" or "johnny why don't you say how clever you are and how far you swam/ran this week." Squirming child then mumbles something and I nod politely. I wouldn't have am issue with "oh I'm so proud of johnny as he managed x this week". I love her kids and care for them. It's more that the proclamations are very loud and usually preceded with the word "advanced".

Is this normal behaviour? It's getting more and more frequent to the extent I no longer look forward to our meets. To make matters worse, she is now commenting on perceived delays in my own kids (who are fine - normal lovely kids) but it makes me very uncomfortable.

I normally smile politely at the boasts. But now feel incredibly defensive when my kids are slighted and seeth.

Also I wonder if my kids wonder why I don't praise them publicly in the same way. They receive plenty of praise privately but I wouldn't dream of doing it my friend's way.

Sorry - this is rather long! Does this sound like normal parenting behaviour and if not, how do you deal with it? I suspect it's down to her insecurity and that has stopped me being bothered about it until recently when it's all the flipping time!

I want to maintain a good relationship with this woman.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 12-Jan-14 15:50:03

I think competitive parenting is reasonably normal, unfortunately. Can mostly be punctured with humour. 'The Wunderkind not on his second symphony yet? hmm ... ' etc.

But passing comment on perceived delays in your DCs is 'Bang Out Of Order' and you should stop the silly cow in her tracks next time she tries it. You may want a good relationship with her but she's not extending the same courtesy to you.

Minime85 Sun 12-Jan-14 15:51:43

have a friend like this. heart of gold but I just can't stand the constant competition and rarely see her now in part because of this.

try and steer conversation in other directions where u can.

oohdaddypig Sun 12-Jan-14 15:54:27

Thanks cogito. Is that really normal? I can't imagine wanting to make another parent feel uncomfortable that way hmm

One of my kids is quite good at a certain activity but I don't mention it unless asked what's she is up to specifically on that activity.

oohdaddypig Sun 12-Jan-14 15:59:56

Thanks minime.

That's my issue - I feel like I'm going to start to make excuses not to see her because its no longer pleasurable.

I'm lucky I have other friends I can see - and this stuff never comes up! In fact I commented recently how well one child was biking - and the mum was so modest about it - like me - and it was all much more relaxed!

Do kids of these parents who constantly publicly praise them have higher or lower self esteem I wonder?

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 12-Jan-14 16:06:31

Yes it's normal and it's not new either. Stealth boast alert... I was a 'gifted' kid 40 years ago. One of these uber-competitive mothers accosted me outside my primary school, physically took my bag off me, rummaged in to find my reading book and then angrily marched into the classroom to demand why Cog was already on level whatever and her DS wasn't. Scared me to fucking death!!!

SailingToByzantium Sun 12-Jan-14 16:07:24

Give her a copy of the excellent 'Bounce' by Matthew Syed to read - it argues that for any significantly complex human activity (especially sports like tennis, football and golf, and games like chess) natural talent is of pretty low importance because the wiring of the brain required to succeed can only be achieved through a massive amount of "purposeful" practice. The end result of this practice is often mistaken for natural talent, but in fact the trait most high achievers have in common is a willingness to work harder than their peers and a belief that this hard work will drive greater improvement and success, not a belief in their fixed superiority.

Syed also shows that by telling children they are the best or naturally talented is counter productive as this type of praise does not provide the cognitive skills to grow and improve in their sport or studies. They often give up when they come up against peers who are better than them - rather than treating it as a learning experience to improve their own game or skills.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 12-Jan-14 16:08:15

I think the DCs of the publicly praising, 'loud parenting' types are probably mortified, truth be told. They also risk having too high expectations of their abilities and find real life a bit of a let-down.

Lazyjaney Sun 12-Jan-14 16:17:41

What Sailing said (nice name btw).

You will always know a few of these types....but I can tell you confidently that being "advanced" is pretty meaningless until it's time to think of secondary school (and even that is too early, some kids don't come into their own till Uni!), and many "advanced" young wunderkinds are pretty ordinary after a while as others catch up over childhood years.

Cleanthatroomnow Sun 12-Jan-14 16:23:23

Ignore, ignore, ignore. It will drive her bonkers. Then move on and spend time with other friends who are more giving. I did this with someone, but I still get the xmas stealth boast in the form of a Round Robin card. Bless.

Minime85 Sun 12-Jan-14 17:20:19

I think its a bit like that when you have baby group friends too when you still all go on and on about your labours. its just the next phase of that I think. I could never compete as had emergency sections both times so I always had 'such an easy deal' apparently.

I think its hard but we have friends for different phases and times in our life and if you're feeling like that maybe its a friendship for that time but not for the future? there are some friends who are always there but others that are part of particular times in your life.

you sound lovely. try not to agonise over it and they and steer conversations away from kids. smile

BrickorCleat Sun 12-Jan-14 17:41:09

Low self-esteem, large ego and desperately threatened by you!!

You can keep good relations by letting it wash over you, but do pull her up on negative comments about your own children.

I have a former friend like this, it was like a tragic compulsion, shoving the very average doings of her DC down my throat.

I've iced the relationship til they've all left home! Life's too short, get some new friends who aren't so tediously insecure.

oohdaddypig Sun 12-Jan-14 20:16:35

Thanks everyone - really appreciate the responses and lots of interesting stuff to think about.

I suppose the heart of this for me is that it's made me question my own parenting style and that's no bad thing. I might try to pick up the syed book. It reminds me of my wise former music told me who always said it was only 1 per cent talent and the rest was hard graft.

As competitive parenting sounds so common I guess it's up to me to find a way to ignore the comments! but for my own sanity, i will say something next time it's about my kids. And perhaps see her less. She is otherwise lovely so I want to maintain the friendship.

I'm not great with confrontation so wish me luck smile

Thanks again - any any other suggestions greatly appreciated.

Phineyj Sun 12-Jan-14 20:25:06

My DSis had a few acquaintances like this. She used to smile broadly and say 'we're not really into competitive parenting'. She said it was amusing to watch them backpedal. Your friend sounds pretty insecure - don't catch it!

AnUnearthlyChild Sun 12-Jan-14 20:26:11

I dabbled in coaching sport, and got chummy with some of the national squad coaches for an Olympic sport.

They all said pretty much the same thing... Raw natural talent will probably set the order of the medals in the Olympics, but it is hard work, focused practice and bloody determination that gets you up to that level in the first place.

Pull her up with a 'did you mean to be so rude' if she puts your kids down, otherwise smile and ignore.

cory Sun 12-Jan-14 23:17:33

All I can add is, be very kind to Johnny- he's not going to have an easy ride of it. CHildren do notice these things and are horribly embarrassed by them.

Oblomov Sun 12-Jan-14 23:24:54

I suspect this friendship is not possible to maintain.
In your heart, you know that, right?

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