From tiger moms to competitive sports dads, parents can sometimes put undue pressure on their children and on teachers. They can also make other parents feel judged and inadequate. When this happens, the community and support system that is essential to raising healthy, happy children is eroded. Understanding what motivates competitive parents and learning how to deal with them can help to establish a supportive and caring infrastructure that creates the perfect environment for students to learn and grow.
Why parents compete
Understanding why some parents are competitive can go a long way to helping you to deal with them in an understanding and constructive way. Parenting really is the most difficult job because it doesn’t come with a manual. Every day, parents make decisions on how to raise their children which they understand will have far-reaching consequences. It’s intimidating and some parents need to reassure themselves that they are making the right decisions by justifying their positions.
Unfortunately, some take this too far; to the point where only their ideas on parenting are validated and they may be a little aggressive in defending them. Family therapist, Mary Beth McClure explains: “Because there’s no external system of reward, we can always feel like we’re not doing enough, no matter what. So becoming competitive with another mom can be an unconscious way of trying to prove to ourselves that we are doing okay.”
Dealing with judgment and competition
Understanding that competitive parents could actually be insecure about their own parenting decisions may help you not to take their judgments personally.
Avoid having these conversations around your children as they should not be made to feel bad when another parent is bragging about their child’s achievements.
The best way to promote a positive parenting community is to be a good example. Compliment other parents on jobs well done or on the achievements of their children.
When parents brag or judge, tell them they are doing a good job and then change the subject. Praise given in front of peers or authority figures like teachers, coaches and principals is even more rewarding. A recent study by Make Their Day and Badgeville found that most employees would choose recognition in front of their colleagues over a pay raise. This helps to highlight the importance we place on getting recognition and praise.
Avoid gossiping about other parents and don’t encourage this behavior in others.
When you feel like a parent is being judgmental or competitive, explain gently how they are making you feel—you may be surprised at their reaction. Most parents really don’t realize that they are acting in a negative way and they may appreciate the head’s up.
Forming cohesive, supportive parenting communities can be a wonderful asset for parents, tutors, teachers and schools. When we work together, we can create a caring environment for families that helps them to thrive and grow. So try to be open-minded about other parent’s techniques and foster friendships and community among your school’s parents.