Monday, 27 June 2011

Are you a competitive parent?

The parenting scale looks something like this:

On the one side:
Psychotically competitive with a win at all costs ethos. These parents are the ones that insist their three year olds learn Mandarin and violin and who probably go to job interviews with their 20 year olds to ensure they say the right thing.

And on the other:
Completely horizontal to the point of disinterest. Let kids be kids. It'll all balance out. They'll find their way. Doesn't matter what they achieve as long as they're happy (or I'm happy as I quaff my chablis ignoring reading homework or the fact that they're still in nappies aged 7).

Now with any scale, what you're aiming for is moderation. Somewhere in the middle that provides a good balance. But most parents will probably sit slightly on one side or the other (after all, that pointy bit in the middle is a bit uncomfy).

And I definitely sit on the competitive parenting side. I try hard not to. I really do. I tell myself it's not about winning, it's about doing your best. My head believes this. My heart can't help but feel a little gutted when my kids don't get a certificate or win a race or get picked for something or aren't moved up a reading level. I feel as though it's my failing, not their's, as though I should have done more to help them.

Which let's face it, is nuts. But I can't help myself. I want my children to do well.

I'm NOT one of those parents who insists their children learn a foreign language or a muscial instrument or spend hours training for a sport or hothouse at home doing handwriting, reading and maths from age 1.

But I do ensure that effort is put into homework (and I can't believe I'm the only parent who excitedly waits for the homework to be marked to see what we got what my child got). And my children do have a schedule that looks like this:
Monday - cricket
Tues - homework day
Wed - tag rugby (used to be Beaver's too but son1 decided it was boring)
Thur - swimming
Friday - football practice
Sat - cricket
Sun - football matches for one and rugby for the other

Fine print: they do also spend an inordinate amount of time doing nothing but stare at a tv and they get to play plenty of games too that don't involve a screen.

Which for a 5 and 7 year old seems a little mad. My rationale for this much activity is partly because I want to knacker them out and instil a love of sport and fitness in them so that they don't turn into obese teens, standing listlessly on a street corner waiting for trouble to find them. But it's also because I want to expose them to different things so that should they possibly have a hidden talent (which if they do they don't get from me) it has a chance to shine. I do not insist that they are the best at what they do. I do encourage them to be a team player, a good sport and to enjoy it.

But secretly I want them to do well. I'd like them to get picked for something. Possibly just because I have visions of them became famous sports people who'll earn a fortune and buy me a tropical island somewhere some day.

This all reared its head today when I saw a poster for football trials for an elite football team. Basically, they have scouts looking at little kids to see who has potential and if they're accepted they get trained up to a mega standard.

This posed a quandary. Yes I would like my son to try out. No it's highly unlikely that he's in the top 2% of ability in our region. Yes we will have to deal with the fall out and crushed ego if he's not accepted, particularly if his friend is. But yes, learning that you don't always win is a good life lesson. And No, I really don't want my son to be a professional footballer, regardless of how many tropical islands he could afford to buy me (not that I'm getting ahead of myself or anything).

So we're going to have a go. And I have warned him that it might come to nothing, but all that is important is that he has a go and tries his best. And if he isn't picked, he still gets to play his usual brilliant way for his normal team. But the question isn't really how he'll feel if he's not picked, it's how I'll feel.  And I think we all know how that will be.

So where do you fit on the scale?


Nicola said...

I fully pretend to be non-competitive, but that really is a joke. I am the original a-type control freak...I do want my kids to 'do well'. Mind you, I will not be taking my 7 year old to footie trials anytime soon. I might be competitive, but I am realistic to know that he might have bags of enthusiasm - but unfortunately, this is not equalled by talent. Yet. I am sure all it will take is a few more dedicated practice sessions a week. And you're right - they do sleep all the better for it.

nappy valley girl said...

I do want them to do well and of course it's gratifying if they do. But I'm certainly not of the Tiger Mother ilk.

I'm competitive up to the point of where if I think they are good at something, I'll encourage them up to the hilt (and hope they win). Littleboy 1 is surprisingly good at football and I've found myself jumping up and down excitedly on the sidelines cheering him on. I would send him off for those trials like a shot.
Littleboy 2 is by contrast completely uninterested, so I'm not going to force him to like it or push him at all. He's opted to do piano lessons instead (but I bet if he's good at piano, I'll be making him do all the grade exams).

Jenny Rudd said...

I'm not sure how competitive I am yet because my 3 are only 4, 2 and 2 so they aren't at school. I suspect I'm more competitive than I like to think. Anyway, go you for the honest self evaluation.

Home Office Mum said...

nicola - I think most parents pretend to be non-competitive, few genuinely aren't

nvg - I think we're probably sharing a bench on the parenting scale

Jenny - you'll know you are a competitive mum regardless of your child's age. Do you care whether they managed to sleep through the night first or learned to walk earlier or got potty trained younger? We're all good at talking the game about 'they'll all do it in their own time' and you might mentally believe that. But you'll know you're competitive if you feel irked when your child lags behind in any of the developmental stages :-)

Michelloui | The American Resident said...

I wrote a post about my Wildflower Parenting Style recently (as opposed to hothousing) because I am much less concerned about getting my daughter to do lots of things really really well and more concerned about her knowing how to pace herself, try lots but do a few things well.

However, thats not to say Im not competitive! I love that my daughter is in the top 1-5 in most subjects and I do insist that she do homework to a certain standard and I do try to teach her the importance of effort=results.

Ugh. Parenting.

Really really good to meet you Saturday, btw. Please keep in touch! x

pigletinapoke said...

I fear I fall on the psychotic side but also, thankfully, am too busy at work most days and pushing my own self to do too much to worry about it! For which my kids are forever grateful. I do look at the "effort" scores on their school reports, and chastise them if I think they have not been trying hard enough. I can't bear quitters in any walk of life, and I have drummed this into the kids since birth. I hope this doesn't make me an awful mum, but I so badly want them to have what they want. I don't push them needlessly or relentlessly, but would confess to basking in their reflected glory when they do achieve. Anyone who says they don't enjoy that bit is not being entirely honest!

Metropolitan Mum said...

Tricky. I want my daughter to be the best she can be, and I don't want her to miss out on any chances only because I have missed to 'challenge' her at an early age. She is only 2 and we do have a bit of a schedule going on here. I am not competitive at all - I just want to help her trying things out. She might want to stick to one of them from an early age, i.e. she could become really good at it. And who knows, maybe that's how she is going to find her profession later in life.