Being the Bigger Parent in the New School Year

Being the Bigger Parent in the New School Year

The pencils are sharpened, uniforms ironed, and the shoes spit-and-polished. That fresh-out-of-the-box smell still lingers around newly bought sports equipment and the welcome mat of your child’s new school year is rolled out. Everything is in order and everyone is ready, from students to teachers to parents.

While it’s a new year for students filled with challenges, to grow and achieve success in going forward onto the next phase of their lives, one can’t help to wonder whether it is really a new year for the students or if it is a new year for the parents?

More and more parents are practicing the art of competitive parenting and often the challenges children have to meet are set by the parents’ standards of performing, succeeding and excelling, instead of the standards set by the curriculum’s expectancies.

Studies have shown that four out of ten children are put off sport by over-competitive parents. They are also often scared to show their reports and fail to acknowledge their own achievements if it’s not in the category of “top achievers.”

The academic pressure in South Korea is so high that suicide is the leading cause of death among Koreans aged 15 to 24. But South Africa is not far behind. Suicide in children aged 10 to 14 years old has more than doubled over the last fifteen years and while the pressure of performing in school might not be the major cause it is still a definite warning flag that should be taken into consideration.

Young children are often defined by their results and the real purpose of education is lost in a sea of competitive parents. The Latin root of the word – educere – means to “lead out,” to develop a human being, and to help them be all that they can possibly be. The unnecessary pressure that’s put on children on the sport field and in their academic careers is setting them up to fail, taking away the joy of childhood, damaging confidence and interfering with the ability to develop at an individual rate. It would do us some good to consider the words of Alfie Kohn: “Competition is to self-esteem as sugar is to teeth.”

How to win at parenting in a non-competitive way


Avoid Comparison 

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Let the words of Theodore Roosevelt sink in, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Stop comparing your child to other children their age or to their siblings. Accept and appreciate your child for the unique human being that he or she is.


Go easy on the contests 

Do home contests (like “first one to finish the dishes wins”) with the utmost care as it can quickly create the perception that everything in life is a contest.


Don’t protect them from failure

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Teach your child the value of failure and don’t hang labels and standards to failure. Instead, let them use their failures in a positive way as a source of motivation and feedback to improve.


Allow your child to be the best version of him/herself

Love unconditionally and allow your child to be who they want to be. Allow them to practice the sport they are interested in, to do music, art and other extracurricular activities if they have an interest to do it. Never force, only guide. Don’t let your children stay behind in a field they are interested in because you are pushing them forward in a field that only serves your own interests.


Be a role model 

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What they see is what you get. Show your children how to deal with disappointments in life, how to stay motivated and practice endurance.


Don’t partake in the brag-game

Parents’ biggest pitfall is often with other parents. Don’t deprecate your child’s worth and character by partaking in the brag-game with other parents; growing up and raising children is not a competition. When someone asks you how your child is doing, answer the question without feeling obligated that your answer should revolve around achievements.

Keep in mind that you are the parent

You are not helping your child by doing their homework or finishing their projects. Remember who the parent is and who the child is. Assist your child, but let them lead the way.

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