It's a common scenario for new-millennium moms: You sit down to chat with a few friendly women at the playground and within minutes, you're hearing sound bites like these:
"My Christopher started reading before his second birthday."
"Hannah crawled at four months."
"Dakota is taking violin lessons. And he's only three!"
It seems like some moms these days just can't resist boasting that their kids are smarter, more creative, more advanced—just plain better than the average baby. As a loving parent, you can't help but wonder if your child is "measuring up."
Before you know it, you're posting a developmental milestones chart on your fridge. Checking off all the things your son can do. Worrying that he's "falling behind." Soon you're buying "Teach Your Baby to Speak French" videos and signing up for kiddie karate and violin lessons. After all, you want him to be successful, right?
Welcome to the stress-filled world of competitive parenting: the need to constantly compare your child to his peers so you can "keep up." It starts soon after you leave the delivery room and only gets more intense as your baby grows into a toddler and a preschooler. But the time to nip it in the bud is now—because psychologists warn that competitive parenting can be harmful to your whole family.
Competitive parenting is very much a modern problem, says Roberta Roth, CSW, a psychotherapist in private practice in White Plains, New York, and creator of the CD and workbook series Parenting Made Easy. Earlier generations didn't feel the need to make sure their children were keeping up with the Jones' kids. But the women's movement of the 1970s changed that.