Meanings of Words, Psychology

The Dangers of Parenting as a Competitive Sport

The Dangers of Parenting as a Competitive Sport

“Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment, and especially on their children, than the unlived lives of the parents. “

–Carl Jung

Competitive Moms Parental Styles

Kyoiku mama is a Japanese term used to describe the maternal parenting styles of mothers who drive their children to succeed academically, often at the expense of a their social and emotional development. Literally translated, it means “education mother”. These mothers compete with one another to get their children into the most prestigious pre-schools, grade schools, and universities. In Japanese culture, education was viewed as the most important factor in the ability to obtain a high-paying and prestigious position in society. Traditionally, Japanese society has placed a great deal of pressure on mothers to maintain a maternal parenting style that would result in academic success by holding them accountable for their children’s grades. Unfortunately, by conforming to this pressure, those mothers have also received a great deal of social criticism for often being feared by their children.

This phenomenon is not limited to Japanese culture. In American culture, two maternal parenting styles similar to that of the Kyoiku mama are the soccer mom and the stage mother. Socccer moms are characterized as mothers who schedule every moment of their children’s spare time with sports and other activities. In American society, sports are strongly associated with politics and being part of a team. Politics is considered as important as education in getting a high-paying job after college. Many social activities are designed to make valuable social connections with children of other families with enough disposable income to pay for these activities.

The maternal parenting styles of both the Kyoiku mama and the soccer mom are almost exclusively related to the middle class. Strict monitoring of a child’s academic performance and social activities usually requires a mother who is able to stay at home, with child care being one of her primary responsibilities. As the economic situation in much of the world has resulted in a shrinking middle class, fewer mothers are able to stay at home with their children rather than having to work outside the home.

However, examples of a similar maternal parenting style, that of the stage mother, can be found in all classes of people. Stage mothers, like Kyoiku mamas and soccer moms, get their sense of social value through their children. The once-popular American television series Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo was often criticized as an example of adult exploitation of children for financial gain. Not only does the stage mother gain social recognition through her children, but often makes her own living from their success.

Effects of Narcissistic Maternal Parenting Styles

One article describes the psychology of maternal parenting styles of many stage mothers as narcissistic. Masha Godkin, an adult child of a stage mother and former child actress, contends that “the desire to act must come from the child. Otherwise, his main goal is pleasing his parents.” In this dynamic, rather than the parent attending to the needs of the child, it is the child which fulfills the needs of the parent. Women who themselves have longed for fame, but were frustrated in their own attempts to achieve it, are more at risk for becoming stage mothers.

According to psychologists, these three maternal parenting styles can undermine children’s psychological health. When children’s sense of acceptance is based on their performance, whether academic, athletic, or artistic, it can lead to a fragile sense of self-esteem. Being rewarded only when they are performing satisfactorily can result in children being unable to accept themselves unless they are performing. One of the most important roles of a parent is that of providing unconditional acceptance. Children of parents who are unable to provide that often spend their lives seeking that approval, sometimes in self-destructive ways.

Psychologists offer some suggestions for mothers who want to encourage their children to succeed, but not at the expense of their mental and emotional health. One of those suggestions is to try not to view children’s performances as personal investments. Another suggestion is to consider the effects of any parental action on the family as a whole. For example, the desire to elevate one child’s performance level may result in another child not receiving sufficient time and attention. Finally, they advise parents to measure their levels of parental pride by asking whether their own self-esteem depends on their children’s performance.

One feature that all these maternal parenting styles share is an over-emphasis on competition and public opinion. It is important for mothers to demonstrate that they value the unique characteristics of their children’s personalities such as kindness, generosity and a sense of humor. It is even more important in cultures in which corporate media stresses the value of performance for social acceptance. One of the best tools for survival a parent can give a child is a strong sense of self-esteem that is independent of the opinions of others.

moms parental styles

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