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Competitive parents: How to deal

Abbi Perets lives in Houston, TX, with her husband and five children.






Mommy wars

We can't help comparing our kids to everyone else, and it's hard not to get caught up in the game. Something about parenting brings out the competitive streak in many of us. But there are compelling reasons to resist the urge to play.

No More"I'm worried about Muffy," says DivaMom. "I think she may be overscheduled. Yesterday, I heard her reciting Shakespearean sonnets with her drama tutor -- in French. I just don't know what to do."DivaMom may not have a clue, but it's a fair bet that most of the rest of us know exactly what to do -- and it's really not fit for print.It's incredibly tempting to one-up another parent with a story of your own little darling's accomplishments, but it's an urge you need to resist. Here's why.

Comparing kids belittles them

People are unique. We all have strengths, and yes, weaknesses. When you measure your child against the yardstick of someone else's accomplishments, you belittle him or her. You reduce your child to an arbitrary determiner of success. It's unfair, and it's beneath you both.A better tactic: when DivaMom announces her daughter's latest achievements, just smile and say, "That's great!" Try to mean it, but even if you don't, that's okay. You just don't have to get sucked into her game. No one's going to win.

Competitive parents have competitive kids

A little competition can be a healthy thing, to be sure, but do you really want your child to live and die by how she measures up to the rest of the class? Remember, class might mean algebra -- or gymnastics, or pottery. Your child needs places where she can explore her strengths, learn from her weaknesses, and develop her own sense of self. She doesn't need to turn everything into a winner-takes-all sudden-death match.If the lesson you teach your kids is that you need them to win at everything, they'll never meet your expectations, and you'll both spend a lot of time miserable.A better tactic: let your kids know -- frequently -- how proud they make you. And when other parents try to top you, just smile sweetly and say nothing. It's not easy -- but you can carry emergency chocolates and pop them in your mouth if necessary.

Competitive parenting keeps you from enjoying your kids

If you're spending all your time measuring your child against her peers, you're not spending the necessary time appreciating her for who she is. Step back and really look at your kid, and take a moment to revel in what makes her unique. Think about the things she does that make your heart melt, the way she gives you joy.Yes, joy. Remember when this child was first placed into your arms, the moment when you became her mother? Remember that overwhelming sense of joy? You should still feel that every day, and if you don't something is wrong.Competition sucks the joy right out of parenting. It has no place in your life. So kick it to the curb. Instead of competing, make a point of finding the joy in parenting for at least a few minutes every day.You can't change people around you. But you can change how you respond to them. Don't allow competitive parenting to become a driving force in your family's life.

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