Some healthy competition can be positive. One doesn’t have to be an Olympic-caliber athlete to benefit from the desire to push hard and try to do better next time. Doing better can even be an attempt to surpass others working toward the same goals. This is common enough between siblings, co-workers, and others seeking praise, attention, and other rewards from a shared audience, such as parents, a boss, or a community.
Competition becomes a bad thing if competitors lose focus of what they’re trying to achieve and, instead, become unsportsmanlike and strive to destroy the competition using dirty tactics. Remember the bad blood between ice queens Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan? The superior skating skills of these two athletes took an ugly backseat to a cowardly physical attack to try to end the contest!
Competitive co-parenting can also become a detriment if we forget what we’re working toward in the first place and let the battle for superiority overshadow the mission we’re supposed to be achieving.
The goal of co-parenting should be for two divorced parents to succeed in raising happy, healthy, and well-adjusted children, despite the fact that mom and dad are now divorced.
Sadly, the whole point of parenting becomes hijacked, for far too many divorced parents, by the intense desire to “win” as the best parent. Instead of focusing on turning out quality human beings, these parents become consumed with being the coolest, having the best of everything, and standing tall as the gold medal winner as ”most superior parent ever!”
Who doesn’t want their child to look forward to spending time with them or to enjoy spending time at their home?
Who doesn’t enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you gave a gift that really made your child’s birthday or another special day?
Who doesn’t take pride in knowing they are competent and successful as a parent?
Count me in on all of the above!
I work hard to plan fun activities for my kids, provide quality food, shelter, clothing, and other basic needs for them, and I love every bit of their appreciation and affection! It warms my heart when I go to some effort to do something nice and they are excited about it!
The question is: do I have the market cornered on all of their time, affection, thoughts, and other needs?
No! They have other people they enjoy spending time with, who care about them, and who matter to them!
Wouldn’t it be kind of weird or short-sighted if they only cared about me, had a relationship only with me, or spent time only with me? Wouldn’t that deprive them of numerous other valuable relationships, friends, and memories? What happens to them if I make them so dependent and enmeshed with me, then I die or suddenly am not part of their life anymore?
Am I the smartest, most experienced, coolest, and most amazing human being to have ever walked the earth?
To be honest, no, I am not! I am a pretty good cook, I’ve handled my share of childhood illnesses, I can figure out how to fix something or give decent friend and homework advice; but, alas, I am not the most brilliant human alive or dead. I have skills and experiences I can share with my kids, and so does their father, grandparents, stepdad, and other people they know!
Holidays are one key time when the competition monster rears its ugly head. Some parents feel the need to bury the quality and quantity of presents given by the other parent in an avalanche of their own.
Are we assuming that a child’s love can be bought with “stuff?”
When they’re younger, children are often self-centered and materialistic enough to where they might be conned with toys, gadgets, and money.
The problem is, will these kids turn out to be the kind of people we want them to be? Will they become greedy, selfish, shallow people who truly equate love with whatever money can buy?
Although kids do love “stuff,” most often, we will find that what a child wants most of all is our time and attention. Time and attention are largely free, but they do wonders to build self-esteem and a solid bond between parent and child. Gifts might temporarily give one parent the edge over the other; but, time spent playing a game together, taking a walk, teaching them to tie their shoes, and so on will eventually eclipse last year’s “have-to-have” toy!
Do we really think no one can hold a candle to our parenting skills?
There’s good parents and bad parents out there. If a parent is truly “bad,” and by this, I mean neglectful or abusive, then the proper authorities should be called in to address the situation to protect the children from damage of any kind.
I’ll be the first to say that I am a parent who tries very hard to do a good job. The teenage years are wearing on me pretty hard; but, I get up and keep trying! I do not believe there’s any such thing as a “perfect” parent. Most of us were born with common sense and some memories of how our parents did their job. Our parents didn’t get everything right, and somehow most of us survived! I choose not to do everything the same way my mom did, but I have also taken plenty of pages from her book.
The pill that I finally swallowed in my divorce (that actually made me feel much better after I did), was that I have no control over how my ex conducts business in his home! I may not agree with all of his parenting choices, as I’m sure he doesn’t agree with all of mine; but, I am certain that he has their best interest at heart and doesn’t want them to be hurt any more than I do. I have to have some faith, or I’ll drive myself insane!
Is it really necessary to micromanage the parenting of our child’s other parent?
One stepmom shared with me a screenshot of texts where the mom provided step-by-step instructions about giving the kids a bath after going swimming, followed by “I hope they’re safe!”
Come on! No doubt dad hopes they’re safe too! Since the children aren’t infants, we can presume that dad has handled bath time before and doesn’t need a helicopter ex directing traffic. In the big scheme of things, if the kids miss a bath, that’s part of summer and childhood, and it’ll be okay!
Again, neglect and abuse are completely different things! Just remember, if you thought enough of your ex to marry and procreate with them, surely you believed them intelligent enough to be familiar with the concepts of three meals per day, basic safety, and other issues!
Parenting is hard enough without all of the extra pressure. You already won the best prize ever if you can be called “mom” or “dad!” No need to drive yourself crazy trying to one-up your ex or prove to everyone how incredible you are! Your kids will figure out, on their own, what everyone’s really about. Just be you!