Competitive Mums – Keep Up With The Joneses

1 June 2016

Over the years as a practitioner and indeed a mother I’ve seen first-hand how the "Keep up with the Joneses" mentality can be really damaging to little ones. It doesn’t seem five minutes ago since I was at my own children’s sports day to hear, to my horror, my daughter's so called best friend’s mother announce to her child "If you win, and I know you will, I will buy you a bike". So how does a healthy bout of competitive instinct turn into a killer instinct to win at all costs... hummm lets investigate.

Over the years as a practitioner and indeed a mother I’ve seen first-hand how the "Keep up with the Joneses" mentality can be really damaging to little ones. It doesn’t seem five minutes ago since I was at my own children’s sports day to hear, to my horror, my daughter's so called best friend’s mother announce to her child "If you win, and I know you will, I will buy you a bike". So how does a healthy bout of competitive instinct turn into a killer instinct to win at all costs... hummm lets investigate.

Nursery is a wonderful environment to enable you to set clear realistic goals and aspirations for your children, with clear developmental milestones, records and checks completely applicable and age and stage appropriate.  I have had mums arrive at nursery in tears having received the most awful comments from so called "friends".

One mum said:

‘I just can’t carry on with the coffee morning – I know how important the learning benefits and social interaction of child and mum get togethers are, but I am doing this to protect myself and my son from other mums who are constantly pointing out, facebooking and tweeting about how advanced and brilliant their children are compared to mine. They make it sound like helpful advice, but it’s obvious they’re being judgmental and critical, I ended up doubting my sons ability and my abilities as a mother.’

Nursery is the perfect environment to regain and foster your confidence as a mother, we work together and show you how to be a positive role model of mutually supportive behaviour and how to be proactive not reactive to the highly competitive world of mother and father hood.

Baby On A Podium

Early years are the formative important years where every child is on their own unique journey at their own unique pace, by the time your little one’s a toddler, trying to keep up with the highly competitive Joneses and their perpetually pushed-to-the-front tot is an unfortunate part of parenting territory. And the best advice I can give is please do not to buy into it.   

So what is the biggest question I get asked when a new parent comes into Nursery, worried that their child isn’t as advanced perhaps as much as their friends, brothers or sisters toddler:

Is their toddler better than mine?

The answer quite simply is... No.

The reality is that all toddlers develop at a rate all of their own, at their own pace, in their own time on their little journey, so quite simply there’s no point in comparing them. If another mum points out how her son is talking in sentences at the amazing age of 18 months, you can congratulate her and mention that it’s completely normal for toddlers to do this anywhere between 18 and 30 months of age. You could also point out that research has shown toddlers who are forced repetitively and force-taught skills eventually lose those gains, and do not have significantly advanced skills several years later when they’re at school.  This is absolute fact; children can not be forced to develop faster than their brains are capable of, they simply will compromise in another area of development to compensate.

Toddler development is within key ranges, not prescribed times, and the range is wide. An early talker can often be a late walker, or may master toilet training much later than you’d expect. Some toddlers don’t begin walking until 18 months, whereas others are already running or jumping and skipping by this age. 

How soon a child achieves a developmental stage is related to his personality as well. A stubborn, independent toddler will try self-feeding well before a more co-ordinated toddler with a less confident nature. As will a boy’s development differ to a girls; there really is no right or wrong in your child’s rate, it's simply about genetics and the individual child’s developmental rate.

A good nursery can help you in many ways and in particular how to deal with "keeping up with the Joneses". (I really do wish at this point I had kept my maiden name hee hee!).

So how are we going to cope and deal with the Joneses?

It’s no competition and there’s no way to win, so don’t venture into the toddler/early learner-comparison arena to begin with. Focus on your own child’s abilities – not your neighbours’ children – in a broad way, encouraging his strengths and helping him build on skills that don’t seem to come so easily to him. It's all about individual learning at individual rates. The minute you start worrying about what the Jones’s child is up to, you’ve lost the very important plot.

Girls in A race

Above all, keep in mind what you are teaching your toddler through your attitude and your concerns – is your concern about him and his achievements, or how well he’s doing compared to someone else? He will carry these lessons about the value of personal achievement and lack of self confidence versus being better than someone else for the rest of his life. In reality, the most "successful" toddlers aren’t the competitive ones, but those toddlers who’ve had a lot of positive social, emotional and learning experiences where being the first, the best or the winner wasn’t the focus, just the overall outcome at whatever speed they achieve it at without any pressure. 

A good nursery will help you understand how to deal with your worries and personal concerns and reassure you what the exact developmental milestones are appropriate for your child’s age group and work with you to ensure these goals are met.

A quality nursery is invaluable when it comes to tact, diplomacy and key advice when your "friend" says "Oh my goodness isn’t your Sam walking yet, George has been running and sprinting around the garden for eternity now", although it is tempting to retort "if you were my mother I would run a mile too", instead nursery help and advise you that the friendly and confident way to respond is that you are delighted that George is advancing so well in his physical development you must be so proud. If they persist you can always politely remind them that you have had him checked at nursery with the professionals and they have no worries as he is developing well within the recommended rates and ranges.

Over-competitiveness from other parents can be intimidating, but don’t be defeated by it. After all, this kind of behaviour by adults is usually covering up their own inadequacies and insecurities. Instead, try to block out the external noise and concentrate on the wonders of your toddler’s  development, something I would like to add you should naturally be very proud of. 

Happy Handstand

Also, it may be worth remembering that it’s equally healthy to admit our failures and mistakes. We all make them, and by meeting on this common ground and discussing our concerns rather than being competitive, we attract genuine support, care and empathy from other parents and carers. At the end of the day, it’s support and understanding that help us all cope better with the challenges of raising a sometimes terrifying, but mostly downright terrific, toddlers and consequently fabulous children.

To my own children it really was a joke when I stated "first the worst, second the best and third don’t even bother coming home you aren’t welcome"... please forgive me!!!

Kind Regards,

Sue xx 

(Managing Director of Evolution Childcare)


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