Family and upbringing: Why parents compete over their children’s backs – BBC News in Serbian

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Everyone who has children – and even many who do not – know a competitive parent.

Some parents boast about their children’s cognitive or school achievements.

Others parade offspring extracurricular activities or “help” them attract the attention of influential “gatekeepers” in their lives.

At best, competitive parenting leads to a hard-working parent standing by the out line of football matches.

At worst, competitive parenting can manifest itself in races to reach developmental stages and wars of embarrassment over snacks packed at home.

And yet, despite the ubiquity of this phenomenon, surprisingly few theories thoroughly explain what motivates competitive parenting.

One theory is that it is because of our need to affirm our own value as parents by “proving” that we are “good enough.”

The study showed that insecurity led teenage mothers to compete in providing material goods for their children.

Other commentators point out that unfettered consumerism or the social network environment reinforces and normalizes this type of behavior.

But the results of a recent study provide an additional interpretation of the imperatives that drive this phenomenon, both in the case of mothers and in the cases of fathers.

Researchers argue that competitive parenting may be a coping mechanism in individuals who respond to feelings of threat or incompetence in other areas of life.

For example, when we feel threatened in one area, such as our business roles, we may want to improve our position through another area, such as parenting.

This is known as “status switching” – and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

It is useful to have various branches of life that affect the perception of our own success, experts say.

But understanding how status transfer can affect some examples of our behavior, including competitive parenting, can potentially help us not focus on just one area of ​​life in order to gain a sense of self-worth.

The best parent in the world!

“In today’s hyper-competitive and interconnected environment, upward social comparison is inevitable,” said Anat Kinan, an associate professor of marketing at Questrom Business School at Boston University and author of a recently published study.

“Individuals often react to status threats by switching to areas where they can highlight their own achievements and feel superior.”

In one of their experiments, which tried to test this theory, Keenan and her co-authors Daphne Gore and Nailya Ordabayeva studied the behavior of parents.

The researchers recruited 502 employed parents and divided them into two groups: “vulnerable state” and “vulnerable state”.

Both groups read material that says they plan to go to graduation anniversary and hypothetically read a newsletter that informs them about where their former classmates are today.

Then, in the group “state of endangerment”, the participants in the bulletin read that one of their former friends from the department was named the most successful businessman of the year.

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Participants were then shown two phone masks to imagine wearing on the anniversary: ​​‘The best job in the world! Congratulations on your success! ‘ and ‘The best mom / best dad in the world! I am very happy that you are my mom / dad! ‘.

They were asked to rate how they would feel about their lives if they showed any of these phone masks on the anniversary.

The vulnerable group rated the ‘best parent’ phone mask better, highlighting achievements from parenting rather than from work, in a context in which one of their former classmates has already been named the best businessman of the year.

In other words, they felt that switching status using the ‘best parent in the world’ phone cover would be a more effective way to regain their status than to try to highlight their own work successes.

Of course, this “switch” does not only apply to parenting.

Keenan explains that we cling to areas such as morality, spirituality, and unique non-vocational experiences such as racing, participating in extreme sports, or visiting exotic travel destinations to signal our own status and enhance a sense of self-worth.

As part of the same study that investigated this status transfer phenomenon, researchers also analyzed 113 bumper stickers on 97 cars parked around a golf course in Crans Montana, one of the largest and most luxurious resorts in Switzerland.

They hypothesized that while luxury car owners can indicate their status by driving conspicuously expensive cars, owners of more ordinary vehicles might want to find more alternative ways to express their status, potentially through car stickers.

Consistent with their hypothesis, a sticker analysis showed that 83.6 percent of ordinary vehicle owners signaled status in areas of alternative wealth, as opposed to only 35 percent of luxury car owners.

The stickers on the more ordinary vehicles concerned extreme sports (such as paragliding or wrestling), sporting achievements through the well-known 26.2 sticker for marathoners, exotic holiday destinations, famous events such as the World Cup.

There were also music festivals or spirituality and themed family stickers, including children’s names, and even a “baby in the car” sticker.

Stickers on luxury cars have mostly signaled success in wealth-related areas such as golf.

“Important identity”

Keenan believes that these conclusions reflect our tendency to replace one form of status with another, as we strive for success in multiple areas.

And yet, given that there are different options when people want to “transfer status”, why is parenting an area that people emphasize so often?

According to Keenan, the answer lies in our beliefs regarding compensation between areas.

We have a habit of believing that gaining status in one area has its price in another, she explains, such as business success that comes at the cost of close family relationships.

With her co-authors, she found that the most commonly held beliefs were “that status and wealth are linked to sacrifice and cost in family life, social life or personal relationships.”

And when areas of our lives such as wealth or careers become compromised, we will most likely switch to some other areas that we have already set as an automatic price for them, like two sides of the same coin.

As far as parenting is concerned, this “switching” requires a more competitive and emphatic response because of how deeply we experience our role.

“Parenting is an identity that parents have, they want to emphasize it and be rewarded for it,” American psychologists Jay Van Bavel and Dominic Packer explain to the BBC.

“Moreover, for many people, it could be the most prominent and important identity.”

This agrees with the findings of our research.

Keenan explains that the transfer of status to parenthood in the case of the study with telephone masks was a phenomenon observed in all genders equally.

In the end, “it all depended on whether you saw parenting as a central part of your identity and self-vision,” she says.

The more centrally we identify with our role as parents, the more likely we are to resort to flaunting parenting achievements as a means of shifting status.

Mother and son
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“Switching between living areas”

When everything is added and subtracted, the transfer of status that encourages competitive parenting is not a completely negative phenomenon.

As Keenan reassures me, my cups of Best Mom in my class and Best Teacher in the World at Home don’t necessarily mean I feel threatened or incompetent in either.

Moreover, a little status switching in our daily lives could even be healthy.

Although boasting is never desirable or recommended, it can be helpful to remind ourselves that “there is more than one way to feel successful and there are alternative ways for a person to fulfill the need for their status,” Keenan says.

“It’s not a bad idea to be reminded of your other roles and the things you care about. All in all, switching status is a healthy psychological mechanism for you to be flexible in the way you define your success. ”

The key is not to define success too narrowly or to fix it on only one area of ​​life, because that creates an extremely competitive atmosphere.

And just as switching to parenting can help alleviate the stress of competitiveness in other areas, switching from parenting to other areas is vital to maintaining a healthy relationship with your children.

After all, too much competitive parenting is associated with destroyed friendships among adults and increased stress among children.

In order to prevent everything from spiraling out of control, a more fluid view of oneself is necessary.

“Our ability to move between areas of life reflects the complex and multidimensional lives we lead and the different types of hats we wear every day,” says Keenan.

“Fortunately, this complexity can protect us from the stress of an ascending social comparison and encourage a healthier, less one-dimensional view of ourselves by helping us draw self-confidence from multiple areas at once.”

Watch the video about the people who started a family in Serbia during the pandemic

One year of the corona virus in Serbia: What does it look like to start a family during an epidemic
The British Broadcasting Corporation

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