Competitive Parenting

November 25, 2018

I was at football training with my two youngest kids yesterday. It is a superb set-up for a football club with hundreds of kids in attendance every weekend. We do the 530pm-7pm slot with the two younger kids; mornings have always been a struggle and so a training session in the late afternoon is perfect.


My youngest has just turned 5, his class is made up of a number of kids that either have an immediate ability to understand the game or those others that I would describe, at this tender age, as butterfly chasers. My son is firmly in the butterfly chasing camp, whatever hopes I may have had that he would immediately take to the game of football ala Messi or one of the other footballing greats have been somewhat tapered in the early stage of his footballing career. He does, however, have a great deal of fun, learns to play in a team and gets to start that wonderfully fulfilling journey of playing team sports. If, as he grows older, he starts showing a talent for football or any of the other sports he plays then fantastic, but to be frank the most important thing for my wife and I, is that he is introduced to how fun and satisfying playing sports can be.


Alas, this does not appear to be the case for all of the other parents. While my 7-year-old and her age group play on a field that is far away from the parents, making standing on the sidelines not possible, the 5 years olds play in front of their parents. This causes a % of these parents to then shadow their children throughout the session, offering scant encouragement but a great deal of criticism and seemingly endless disappointment. 


 It is a very strange thing to behold, these children are so young and the stakes at this age are so low that it seems incomprehensible to me that you would feel the need to not just let your child enjoy the game and be coached by the coach that you have paid to do that job. I mentioned my incredulity at the actions of these parents to my wife and she promptly pointed my gaze towards the various signs around the pitches. These all had the heading RESPECT and were followed by the request for parents to treat the referees, coaches, and children with respect. It seems an extraordinary thing to have to remind people to do, but having seen the stalking parents mentioned above, I was sadly not surprised that these signs would indeed be required.


Sadly the curse of competitive parenting is not something that only affects sports, it also prevalent in education. In my youngest daughters school, they have recently scrapped streamed classes. The idea was to stop the divisive sense of academic segregation until they reach Under 12s. Very sensible and admirable, however on the Class Messaging Group, the parents swiftly went about trying to work out which class had the brightest children and was, therefore, the better class. This required parents to start academically judging other people’s children on a public forum, simply awful behavior and something that made my usually calm and collected wife, to be neither calm nor collected. As soon as she caught up with the messages that evening, she messaged the whole group stating that the conversation had to stop immediately as it was completely inappropriate. 


And so it seems, that the tendency of Parents to live vicariously through their children is one that can seep into every aspect of the child's life. While I have not seen it with my own eyes, I presume some parents look admiringly at their child’s ability to put on their trousers and wonder where they are in the league of putting on trousers for their age globally? Given the amount of popular culture that has parodied this type of parent, I find it incredible that so many parents behave in this fashion and are so self-unaware of their behavior. Behavior that can at times look like it has come straight from a Comedy Sketch Show:


Alas, it seems that the competitive parent will continue to give comedians enormous material for years to come.

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