5 Ways to Manage Competitive Parenting

Mighty Mommy shares five ways you can stay above the fray and manage today’s competitive parents without letting them get the best of you (or your kids!).

Cheryl Butler
10-minute read
Episode #511

As I sat watching my 13-year-old daughter's practice at cheerleading last week, I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of new moms I see in town and at school events but they don’t run in the same personal circle as I do. All of our daughters are on the winter cheerleading team and were practicing some new stunts for their upcoming competition.

What started as a pleasant time waiting for the girls to finish soon turned in a new direction. As my daughter worked through some jumps and landings, the other two moms started talking quietly among themselves, and since I could overhear most of what they said, not quietly enough.

Apparently they felt my daughter wasn’t as flexible as one of theirs, and in fact wondered out loud if it was because she probably wasn’t taking extra dance classes. Not in the mood to entertain their comments, I kept my mouth shut and tried to enjoy what was left of the practice.

Mind you, this wasn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last time I’ve witnessed catty comments (meow!) about one of my kid’s abilities, but unfortunately these days it goes much further than that while raising kids in such a competitive age.

Remember that kids aren’t kids forever, and once they are grown, your time with and influence on them diminishes substantially.

Parents aren’t just overhearing a snide remark about their own or another child’s performances (both academically and athletically), they’re also struggling to keep up with the Joneses when striving to give their kids the same experiences that their peers are getting.

It used to be that a kid grew up riding his bike around the neighborhood and played on one or two recreational teams in town. Those days are long gone, however, and have been for quite some time. Now the average family is scheduling everything from pre-school flute lessons to chemistry tutoring in a second language, regardless of whether they have the means to do so or not.

Why the desperate need to make sure our kids are entrenched in the cutting edge of school, sports, artistic endeavors, and even community service occasions? Because we want our kids to have the best chance possible at excelling at all that they do—particularly where college admission is concerned. Unfortunately, sometimes we can let our competitive nature get the best of us and dictate just how far we’ll go to make our kids the brightest stars in the Universe.

It’s not possible to remove the many overbearing and competitive parents from the mix. Instead, Mighty Mommy shares five ways you can stay above the fray and manage today’s competitive parents without letting them get the best of you (or your kids!).

5 Ways to Manage Competitive Parenting Types

  1. Don’t Overschedule for the Wrong Reasons
  2. Limit Your Social Media Intake
  3. Don’t Take It Personally
  4. Celebrate Your Child’s Strengths and Passions
  5. Address Your Own Competitiveness

Here they are in more detail.

1. Don’t Overschedule for the Wrong Reasons

No one is going to fault you as a parent for trying to provide as many enriching experiences for your child both in and out of the classroom. We want our kids to be as successful as possible and to make a positive difference in the world as young adults. It’s our job to raise independent, productive members of society who are well-rounded, caring, and could possibly be a future President of the United States, facilitator of world peace, or world-renowned researcher who discovers the cure for cancer—the list goes on and on.

Those are all wonderful intentions, but to what expense are we willing to enroll them in non-stop activities?

In an article for The New York Times, Columbia psychology professor Suniya Luthar shares some extensive studies on the role of extracurricular activities in children’s lives, surmising that it’s not actually the amount of activities we schedule that is the culprit.

“It’s good for kids to be scheduled,” she said. “It’s good for them to have musical activities, sports or other things organized and supervised by an adult. And, since most school districts fail to provide adequate after-school programs, there’s the big deal of giving parents a break. Problems arise when parents over scrutinize their children’s performance in these activities.

“You don’t just play soccer for fun or play stickball in the cul-de-sac, you’re vying for the travel team by second grade,” she said. “The only place where I say stop is where the child starts to say his or her performance determines his or her self-worth: I am as I can perform.”

Kids are overscheduled, but at the same time, many parents are afflicted with competitive outbursts because they have one goal in mind—raising a child who is the best at everything—and they don’t mind at all letting you, or worse, the child, know that.

In my episode, 6 Ways to Take Back Family Time, one of my tips is to scale back on kids’ activities. In order to create more down time with the family, it was suggested that you get your kids involved by asking them which of their extracurricular are their favorites and which they can live without. Here's my key point from that episode:  

Time for a new rule: Set aside certain weeks out of the year—holidays and vacations, perhaps—that are non-negotiable family time. Assess situation by situation, realizing that even if your kids become famous athletes or actors, one holiday weekend won’t make or break them. But building their family relationships with their parents, siblings, and grandparents may be fostered by those times. Remember that kids aren’t kids forever, and once they are grown, your time with and influence on them diminishes substantially. Take the opportunity now to develop a close sense of family.

Just as offering your child a variety of enriching opportunities is necessary, equally as important is to offer them quality family time. Balance things out and you’ll be better equipped to deal with competitive issues from other parenting camps.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.