Posted on 05-08-2010
Filed Under (Balance, Intentional parenting) by admin

When did parenting become such a competitive sport? You hear about it regularly in the news, where parents verbally (and sometimes physically) assault referees at soccer matches because they don’t like the unfavorable calls against their kids. You see it in our consumer culture, with companies pushing foreign language programs for infants and parents vying for the first spot in line to buy the latest “must-have” toy. You know parents who enroll their kids in so many lessons, camps and tutoring sessions that the poor kids don’t have a free afternoon all week. You might even be competing yourself.

 While we all want our kids to be happy and successful, the line often blurs between a nurturing parent and a pushy parent. I’m the first to admit that I’ve crossed the line myself sometimes, wanting my kids to succeed and “be the best they can be.” (Yes, I bought into the Mozart effect and stocked up on a few Baby Einstein CDs.) But for the most part, I’ve learned to back off.

Why? Because I’ve learned that competitive parenting comes at a great cost, with parents micro-managing their kids’ lives, pushing them to excel in everything, rescuing kids from their own mistakes, and planning all their free time for them. The result? Kids learn to look to their parents for all the answers rather than think for themselves. Kids grow frustrated and get easily bored when they’re not entertained 24/7 with a slate of structured activities. Kids feel intense pressure to succeed at school, at home, in sports and on the social scene. Kids struggle to deal with setbacks because parents try to remove all risk and pain from their kids’ lives. Kids don’t develop responsibility because mom and dad are always bailing them out.

Letting go of competitive parenting means taking it down a few notches. Nurture, but not to the nth degree. Guide kids toward making good decisions rather than always deciding for them. Help kids find and enjoy their passion rather than pushing them to excel at it. Allow kids to take risks and make mistakes instead of always rescuing them. And, perhaps most importantly, give kids the time and space to just be kids.

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