How to deal with competitive parenting

Kinderling News & Features


For all its joys, parenting can often feel like a not-so-amazing race. Whose child is walking, talking, pooping best? Who’s ticked off the most milestones this month?

While you’re taking baby-steps, it can seem like other families are making giant leaps, which can leave you feeling stressed and inadequate.

Karen Bevan, former CEO of Playgroup NSW, is well acquainted with competitive parenting. She recognises it’s a tricky time no matter what, as our confidence is low when our kids are young. “We’re vulnerable when our kids are born,” she says.

Low confidence plus lower energy levels (due to less sleep) can also make us more sensitive to competition and comparisons to others. Karen says the key is consciously choosing not to compete in the first place. “For there to be competition, you’ve got to be a part of it.”

Of course, sometimes it’s impossible not to feel the pressure. Here’s her expert tips for not taking it personally.

Listen to the full interview on Kinderling Conversation

1. Be reasonable

Think about what’s currently happening in your life and how it makes you feel. Are you feeling judgement when it’s not there? Karen says to ask yourself a few questions: “Are you a part of it? Or are you hearing it through a judgement frame where you think it’s about you, when really it’s actually a couple of people just reflecting on their day.”

2. Don’t judge

Avoid making assumptions about the choices people have made and their reasoning. There might be a whole heap going on behind that decision.

Acknowledge that others are making their own choices, and most people are fine if you ask a question with genuine curiosity.

3. Think of others

On the flip side, Karen recommends you “be aware of how you impact others.” Even though you might be stuck in sleepless land, try to think of how your choices might seem to others and how you talk about these decisions.

4. Be confident

Know that your confidence will grow in your parenting. Karen says she experienced this herself. “Over time, many of us become more solid about our choices.”

At the start though, parents might be competitive and judgemental to validate their own choices, especially if that runs contrary to broader society.

Karen says you need to stay strong in what you believe is right for your children. “You’re going to have values you want to instil in your kids, you need use that as your guide, your centre.”

5. Recognise difference

Acknowledge that everyone is different. Supporting one another is key, says Karen. We should recognise that maybe it’s not something you would personally do, but support another person in their decision. “Start from a place where you believe that one another are good enough,” she advises.