The Competitive World of Parenting

February 23, 2011 Theresa Fung

Whenever a bunch of parents congregate with their children, one thing is inevitable: a little bit of competition flares up amongst the sticky sippy cups and cookie crumbs. Now, I’m not a competitive person by nature—you could run circles around me on the track field or beat me in a game of Scrabble, and it wouldn’t faze or bother me a bit. But when it comes to my daughter, my own flesh and blood, I can’t help but compare her development to other toddlers her age.

Parenting - The Unlocked Life

What is it about parenting that brings out the competitive streak in even the most laid-back people? I know that children are a reflection of us and blah blah blah. But I think it runs deeper than that. Parenting is one of the sacred institutions in society where you are expected to excel at—particularly if you are a mother. It doesn’t matter if you failed the bar exam, or are a lousy accountant; if you are a good parent, you can redeem yourself and society will smile upon you.

Super-Parents Make Us All Look Bad

There are some parents who seem to have received a secret parenting handbook that the rest of us are not privy to. These are the so-called “super-parents.” They are the ones who seem to effortlessly juggle the full-time responsibilities of parenthood, alongside an interesting career, and a fulfilling social life, all while teaching their offspring three different languages. We all need to stop comparing ourselves and our children to these people. Now.

I know one mom who claimed to have taught her nine month old daughter 50 words using baby sign language. “Ooohh, baby sign language!” I thought. “What a great idea!” So for several months, I diligently watched a baby sign language video with my daughter and tried to use as many baby signs throughout the day in hopes that we could better communicate. After months of this, my daughter knew exactly…zero signs. Blame it on my poor teaching skills. We would have been better off watching soap operas instead.

As a parent, you can’t help but wonder if you’re doing something wrong when your neighbor’s kid is speaking in full sentences and yours is still barely saying Mama and Dada. But it’s so important to remember that kids all develop at different rates. And if you’re really worried about something, talk to a professional who will at least reassure you that everything is okay or confirm your suspicions so you aren’t left in the dark.

Good Parenting Takes Practice

That initial insecurity and hesitation that new parents feel gets better with time and practice. Yes, practice. I was one of those rare specimens that never changed a diaper in my life until I had my own baby. Now the smelliest of diapers doesn’t faze me…much. It only makes sense that other aspects of parenting such as communicating, disciplining, and being a good role model improve over time (and with a lot of trial and error).

I remember one of the most annoying things that my parents did was to compare me and my brother to their friends’ children. They would say things like, “Monique stays home on weekends to study and that’s why she is a straight-A student.” This type of statement only made me roll my eyes to the heavens and want to do the exact opposite of whatever precious Monique did.

Learning to relax and not worry so much about our kid’s accomplishments and milestones is also part of being a parent. When our kids are all grown up, nobody is going to care that Billy started walking at 10 months old and was a piano prodigy. We’ll remember little things like making Sunday morning pancakes together and piling into the family car to go camping.

Besides, people say that Mozart didn’t speak until he was three years old…

APA Reference
Fung, T. (2011, February 23). The Competitive World of Parenting, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 from

Author: Theresa Fung

Dr Musli Ferati
March, 24 2011 at 11:50 pm

The psycho-social development of children takes place through a complex bio-psycho-social process. Parents play an important part in the breeding of their biologic heirs. Their role and place, besides others , remain overload with many challenges and unexpected emotional experiences. As it is known, the parents simultaneously for their loved children are more than educator, moral and material supporter, legal cohabitant, daily interlocutor and co-operator in many family efforts. Therefore the responsibilities of parent are immense, all the more when anyone of us want and expect from their children to be perfect men. And this propensity is an inner and unconscious intention. By me, these expectancies often are irrational, that You, with competency, denominate as competitive requirements. The same, seriously damaged healthy forming of personality to our children. In this direction, parents should be critical in their ambitions toward their loved heirs.

Theresa Fung
March, 4 2011 at 12:36 pm

Alistair, raising your daughter in the 80s must have been an interesting experience! Hmm...maybe I should have picked another example other than Mozart; what I meant by that is that even child prodigies aren't perfect and that parents ought to worry less about how other kids are developing and more so on encouraging their children by providing a loving environment.

Alistair McHarg
February, 23 2011 at 10:22 am

Ms. Fung: I agree wholeheartedly. My daughter was born in the early 1980s during the rise of the Uber-Yuppie phenomenon - when raising children was considered a competitive sport. It was a time of wretched excess and insane expectations. Children need your love and your presence - you lead by example - not by buying them violin lessons. - That said, your choice of Mozart was surprising. Perhaps he waited until 3 to speak, but he was on the Royal concert circuit by 5, the victim of an exploitative "stage-father" who paraded him around like a trained monkey. Mozart was never allowed to be a child and consequently remained a child for the entirety of his brief, tormented life.

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