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Q: “Competitive Parents Make Me Question My Parenting Skills. How Can I Reclaim My Confidence?”

November 15, 2023

Q: “How do I gain more confidence in my parenting abilities around competitive parents? When friends ask questions about my child, I always answer honestly and humbly. Then, the comparisons start. I know this is a ‘me’ problem. I don’t know how to deal with it effectively other than avoiding the conversation and disengaging as soon as possible.” — KHawaii

Hi KHawaii:

Wow! This hit home. Navigating the realm of competitive parenting can be a challenging journey — especially when you have a child with ADHD and executive functioning challenges — as you work to celebrate their unique strengths and progress.

It’s admirable that you’re aware of the comparisons that often arise during these conversations and recognize that it’s more about your feelings than anything else. Building confidence in your parenting is a process but having the “verbiage” readily available to respond to parents who want to compare will help you get there.

When I work with my parent-coaching clients on this topic, I begin by helping them embrace the notion that every child is unique and progresses at their own pace. We look for the child’s strengths, talents, and growth; we don’t conform to societal expectations or benchmarks of where they “should be.”

When you can fully accept your child, you’ll gain your “confidence footing.” I firmly believe that confident parenting stems from recognizing and valuing your child’s journey — not how long it takes them to get there or any external judgments.

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When other parents ask about your child’s progress, respond positively and honestly, and specifically focus on your child’s growth and accomplishments, no matter how small. Share anecdotes that highlight their unique qualities and achievements. Try redirecting the conversation toward fostering a supportive community rather than fueling a competitive atmosphere.

Pro-Con-Pro Approach to Competitive Parenting

I call this the Pro-Con-Pro Approach. Here’s what it may sound like.

PRO: Start with something super positive about your child. “He built his largest LEGO set to date.” “She’s learning how to drive.” “He’s been really dedicated to playing the piano almost daily.”

CON: Here is where you get very real. Find something you have permission to share. (Please make sure you do not impinge on your child’s privacy.) “He’s disappointed he didn’t make the swim team.” “She’s struggling in math, so we’re working on finding a tutor.”

PRO: Find a positive connection between you and the other parent. “Isn’t it great our children are right where they need to be?” “I’m so proud of both our kids for working on forging their own paths.” Connect it, find the positive common ground, and the conversation wraps itself up.

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And for the parent who goes on and on about their “perfect” kid? My advice is to look them straight on, stand tall, and say, “I’m so glad your child is doing so well. It’s rare to find any child today who isn’t struggling over something, mine included. What’s your secret?”

Trust me that when I am that direct, two things happen. The other parent will start to break down that perfect wall and share a few things, or the conversation will end.

If you are looking for a fun, extremely relatable book on this topic, check out Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid: A Survival Guide for Ordinary Parents of Special Children,” by Gina Gallagher and Patricia Konjoian. (#CommissionsEarned)

Please don’t be hard on yourself. My son has flown and grown, and I’m still learning and evolving as a parent, especially when it comes to competitive parenting! Above all, remember that your child’s worth isn’t determined by comparison to others but by their progress and happiness.

Good luck.

Competitive Parenting: Next Steps

ADHD Family Coach Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, will answer questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

Submit your questions to the ADHD Family Coach here!

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