Did you notice a mother go over the top this Halloween with her child’s costume?
It’s probably because she was trying to impress teachers and other parents, according to the Daily Mail. In fact, a new study of more than 1,400 British women found that 4 out of 5 mothers feel pressured to impress teachers alone, Daily Mail reported. In some cases, these mothers will volunteer for school food trips or to help out with class projects more than their peers, Daily Mail reported.
The study also found that these mothers will read to their children more than the recommended amount and will practice homework more often so that their children will reach the top of the class, Daily Mail reported.
Four in 10 mothers also said in the study they were concerned with being the “coolest” mom among their children’s friends, which leads those mothers to allow their children to eat whatever they want, Daily Mail reported.
These competitive mothers will also brag online and in person about their children’s achievements, Daily Mail reported.
These parents will treat parenting like a project, according to Annette Lareau, a sociologist who spoke to WebMD. So when their child does something successful, those parents will feel like they’ve completed the project and achieved something great on their own, too.
"There's a way in which an activity is more intense for the mother than it is even for the child," Lareau told WebMD. "And the competitive nature of activities is woven into the heart of the process."
These parents can sometimes be hard to deal with, according to Richard Cromwell and Nicole Russell of The Federalist. They tend to overshare about their child’s achievements, which can come off as inconsiderate bragging, Cromwell and Russell wrote.
“Is there anything worse than listening to a parent brag about how his 6-year-old has the basketball skills of Michael Jordan, or tech skills that promise to make him into the next Steve Jobs?” the two wrote for The Federalist. “What about the parent who complains incessantly, claiming that survivors roaming the earth after the Zombie Apocalypse would have it comparatively easy?”
But friends and fellow parents shouldn’t be too harsh on the bragging parents, the writers explained. Parenting can sometimes be a hard struggle, especially in the early years. When parents see their children succeed, they often feel nothing but appreciation and pride for what their children have accomplished, which is why they will brag about their children, according to The Federalist.
“Parents enjoy their children and realize they are individual humans with their own strengths, weaknesses, joys and fears, and feel genuine pride when they excel at their natural gifts,” The Federalist writers said.
Experts say that parents should work together to spread positive messages about who their children are as individuals, rather than what their report cards say about them, WebMD reported.
"Many focus on their children's achievements, rather than getting to know their kids as individuals," psychiatrist Alvin Rosenfield told WebMD. "The dilemma is when kids become valued only for their accomplishments — or when they live up to your fantasies of what they ought to accomplish — not for who they are as people."
Parents can also set an example for other parents by limiting the amount of bragging, WebMD reported. This may encourage other parents to brag less about their children as well.
Experts who spoke to WebMD also suggest parents keep their chatter about their children to a minimum, and leave it up to other relatives to spread positive messages about their youngsters.
“Restrict talk about your child's successes and talents to the child's other parent, grandparents, and aunts and uncles,” WebMD said. “Just like you, these people know your child is the smartest, bravest, best child on earth.”
And if you’re going to brag about your child, it’s important to do it in simple ways that highlight your child’s successes rather than your parenting successes, according to Bruce Feiler of The New York Times’ This Life blog.
Parents should brag about their children's efforts, not necessarily what they accomplish, Feiler wrote.
“If you say, ‘My kid loves reading,’ that’s OK,” author Brad Meltzer told the Times. “If you say, ‘My kid is the best reader in his grade,’ I start the hate machine.”
But regardless of how it’s done, it’s important for parents and friends of parents to remember that people who brag are just looking to assure others, and themselves, that they’ve been a good parent, the Times reported.
“If there is to be a truce in the bragging wars, it’s because both sides want the same thing: reassurance that they’re doing a passable job at something that’s very hard.”
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Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret News National. Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @herbscribner.