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Competitive Parenting

In Africa there is a philosophical term called Ubuntu.  The best translation in English would be “I am…because WE are.”

Contrary to our Western beliefs that promote competition on seemingly every level, “Ubuntu reminds us that humans did not become a dominant species by competing. We did it by cooperating in small villages surrounded by threatening wild animals, where each person is considered precious and sharing brings abundance.”  Martha Beck, O Magazine

Over the past few weeks, as I’ve read some disturbing headlines involving children, alongside many of you, I am trying to honor the memory of those harmed by choosing to look for hidden meaning and learn from the tragedies.

From the the child that fell into the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati zoo to the toddler that was dragged off and killed by a crocodile at Disney World to the Stanford rape case, a competitive theme has emerged.

The competitive underlying message suggests that we are clearly practicing the opposite of Ubuntu as a society and our kids are suffering for it.

Frankly, the future of our country is suffering and I “TRUMP” anyone not to look in the mirror and take an honest look at the negative effects of our competitive culture.

The real culprit in our kids becoming screwed up ( is this competitive environment that we are raising our kids to think is normal.

Take Brock Turner, aka, the Stanford Rapist, for example.  He was a Stanford freshman on a swimming scholarship from a middle class Midwestern family.

Think about that…this kid from a small middle American town not only got into the very prestigious Stanford University but he also qualified for the swim team and earned a scholarship!

As a mom of a recent high school graduate, I can attest to the last two years being surrounded by conversations and inquiries all about college…admission’s test scores; who was applying in state, out of state, public or private; where they were accepted; scholarships; celebrations; humble and not so humble Facebook bragging posts.

Having a child with Brock Turner’s resume’ would leave most of us feeling pretty self assured that we had tangible evidence that we were in fact NOT screwing up our kids.

After reading Brock Turner’s parent’s letters to the court on behalf of their 19-year old son who sent naked pictures to his friends of the unconscious young woman that he was sexually assaulting behind a dumpster in a bed of pine needles, I would venture to say they ignored some pretty severe warning signs or chose to keep their heads very far up their own asses in denial that they were raising a person capable of committing this type of crime.

Perhaps they felt tremendous pride from their son’s impressive accomplishments like they had never felt before from their own mediocrity and it was just too difficult for them to give this up?

As parents if we secretly or not so secretly need our kids to impress the world because we are looking so desperately for evidence that we did our job well as parents…then Houston, we have a SERIOUS problem.

Another part of this same competitive coin is the parent shaming that has gone on regarding the young children that were harmed by animals recently in the news.

People want to know where were the parents to allow this to happen.

Do we really need to provide evidence of human mishaps or “failings” to validate how we are doing as parents?  What’s with the comparison game?

I can’t believe that the mother of the child in the zoo or the father holding his toddler’s hand by the Florida lagoon are to blame for these terrible tragedies.

First of all, I can admit to being at the zoo many times and not holding my child’s hand every second and even letting them run ahead or stay at an exhibit while I bought some overpriced and not very tasty Dippin’ Dots close by.

And I have been a conscious parenting educator for a decade and just wrote a parenting book supporting parents on their journey not to feel like they are screwing up their kids.

Do we really need to shame other parents for doing the same sh!t that 99% of us have also done to stroke our own egos and feel like at least we are not screwing up our kids as badly as they are?

Brock Turner’s parents were probably secretly high fiving each other in their living room sitting in their matching Lazyboys as they enjoyed their T.V. dinners in front of Wheel of Fortune when they received the acceptance letter from Stanford.

They may have thought that they had done the opposite of raising a screwed up kid and were absolutely positive that their little Eagle Scout would go on to do big things and earn big money and continue to provide evidence that they were winning at the game of parenting.

I am here to tell the Turners that they royally f&*ked something up because as the court records state, they raised a rapist.

I am going to go out on a limb and say that if you raise a rapist it is fair to say that you have a pretty clear answer to whether or not you screwed up your kids.

However, I think the Turners were most likely just wrapped up in our external achievement based culture and frankly, weren’t overthinking it.

In fact, I know many people that probably think the Turners did a fine job and can identify with their values about teaching their kids to compete, win and take no prisoners no matter what the costs.

Of course, I don’t think very many of these people are openly admitting to this or outwardly teaching their kids these values.

78% of communication is nonverbal and nuanced.

If your behavior as a parent promotes being the best student, athlete, etc., I challenge you to honestly look into that parenting mirror and make sure that you are raising GOOD human beings versus raising human puppets that win and give you bragging rights and validation.

Because the thing with puppets is that they tend to lie…hmmm, I seriously doubt Brock Turner’s parents are posting humble brags on Facebook these days.

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