Are You A Competitive Parent? Part 1


In the USA there are many parents who have gotten into a behavior that I call “competitive parenting.”

This competing has been around for a while – but now seems to have gotten worse – and it has spread into many more areas of a child’s development. 

Even into areas over which a parent has little control!

We hear of parents signing up their not-yet-born children for the “best” nursery schools so as to ensure future entrance to colleges such as Harvard or Yale.

What a burden on that child! What if that child does not want to go to those schools – or heaven forbid – does not want to go to college at all? Or is not accepted?

We have parents pressuring children to get “good” grades as early as nursery school and kindergarten. I knew of a child who got ulcers in the 1st grade because she “only” got an A- or B+ on some assignments and her parents were making her study more so as to raise that to a solid A [no minus marks or B’s allowed in that family.]

Somehow making sure your child is seen as better than and faster than “those other children” either makes you seem like a better parent or proves your child is genius [and of course that will reflect back on you the genius parent.]

Please stop it!

Kids have enough to do just to develop…they don’t need added pressure from parents trying to prove something to the world.

Next – competition around weaning and toilet training…..


Thoughts? Comments? Thank you.




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About the author 

Lynn Dorman, Ph.D.

  • Hi Lynn,

    Part of my personal development journey has been to let go of my workaholic perfectionism – OK, it got me through med school but I didn’t have much fun until I released myself from it. I have learnt a lot in terms of my own parenting from that alone.

    In addition, the courses that I have been on in learning to teach and train through public speaking have shown me more than even modern teachers understand about the different ways in which people learn – visual, auditory and kinaesthetic – which affects our outcomes at school as schools have hitherto been very left-brained in their teaching style.

    When I first met my husband I was astounded at the paucity of his exam result – but I now understand that he was a kinaesthetic learner at a deeply traditional visual-auditory school, and he didn’t stand a chance. Now my 15 year old son wants to be a comedy actor, and my 11 year old daughter is already an accomplished artist and jewellery designer, and I not only accept that but embrace it with gratitude that they are not entering the world of competetive medicine.

    Thank you for your post. It also reminds me of the “my party is better than yours” competition that happens each birthday in our younger children.

    The world is changing – constantly – and it is a joy to embrace our differences without comparing ourselves to others.


    • Oh Alison – thank you for the comment and reminding about competitive parties! That was not on my list but it may may be 🙂

      When my own son decided to not go to college but to enter the military I had friends ask me how I could “allow” that – DUH! It’s his life and I figured he’d go when he was ready [and he did.]

      We all march to different drums so to speak – glad you are allowing your kids to march to theirs.


  • Lynn, as a parenting and teen coach, former therapist for teens and someone who has provided direct service to teens for years, I applaud your article. Pressuring children to constant perform better has many negative side effects that show up in later years.

    Parents are not really doing their children a favor by pushing them into all sorts of activities. Think about it parents, is that for you or for your child? If you want them to have advantages, make sure they can read and write well. Let them enroll in the activities they want to enroll in, not the ones YOU think are right for them.

    To my way of thinking, parenting is about teaching your children real values, making sure they have basic skills upon which to build, and ensuring that they feel loved and safe in your family. The rest will follow as they grow.

    • Thank you for this Julia … it’s sort of along the lines of what I say in my books and my classes. I’ve seen too much stress and too much child abuse based on pressuring children 🙁


  • Hi Lynn –

    Thank you for your post.

    While I understand your POV, as a mother of 2 very young girls – I would want my children to have the best opportunity for them to be better and go farther in life than I did.

    My husband and I just spoke earlier about putting out girls into cheer or gymnastics as soon as their able, to give them an “advantage” when they get older. I don’t think its is being competitive as much as it is wanting my children to have it all and know it all.

    As parents we want the WORLD for our children and it is our duty to do the best we can to provide it to them. My girls stay home with me and my soon to be 1 yr older is just as bright as my 2yr old – all because we did not give them easy toys to play with – we gave them advanced items.

    Am I a “competitive parent” sure.. but I do it only because I love my girls and want them to have more then “potential”

    I’m looking forward to your Part II – I am potty training right now… should be interesting 🙂

    • Thank you for your comment. One of the major points I make in my books and coaching is that each of us is responsible for ourselves. No one, not even me, can tell anyone how to raise kids. We all want what we see as “best” for our own kids and make our parenting choices along those lines. I opine only my own points of view 🙂


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