Carolyn Hax / Life Advice

Competitive Parenting

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Our circle of friends have babies born within a few days/weeks of our child. This is a great situation for us as they have built-in playmates. The only negative is one couple who are obsessed with trying to compete with the rest of us. First it was who was finding out the gender first, then it was who was going to deliver. Now that the babies are here, it's about the weight of the babies/who has teeth first/who rolled over first, etc.

What is the best way to handle such silliness? We have tried changing the topic, but that hasn't worked. We suspect a good deal of this stems from insecurity. The couple is now obsessing about a second child.

-- Competitive Parenting

No, all of it stems from insecurity.

This couple might find their way out of your social circle eventually, since different kids follow different trajectories with sports, hobbies, clubs, even schools. In the meantime, though, humor, topic changes, and the occasional "Hey -- they're all great in their own ways and on their own time" are all your allies in this anti-silliness campaign. Each is a way of declining to enter the competition, and that's the only way you're going to keep it contained.

Two side notes, though:

(1) Watch the "we" ("We have tried changing the topic ... "), especially if "we" includes other members of this circle of friends. Then you're veering close to the ganging-up line.

(2) Competitive people are most annoying to other competitive people. I say this as one myself, so I'm not pointing fingers. I'm just noting that the more mindful you are of where your kid falls on the distribution curve (as most parents are, given that little voice that nags, "Is my kid OK?"), the more vulnerable you'll be to someone who is overt about it. Something to have in mind when these parents are getting on your nerves, to keep you off the ledge.

...continued

Copyright 2012 Washington Post Writers Group



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