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"My son seems like he's in the midst of a contest every moment. He needs to be first to get to the car, first to choose his seat, first to finish his dinner. He also needs to be best. What can I do to help him not be one of those super-competitive children and just live his life, rather than try to prove over and over again how good he is?"

There's not a quick fix for your son's fixation on being first and best. If there were, we would have a much more peaceful world. This "need to be best" mentality is actually endemic in our society. We are trained to be competitive from early in our lives. Some of us can see that there are many attributes that each person, each city, and each country has that can be appreciated, and that there's always going to be something a person, city or country can learn from another. But many of us have grown to need to be on the "winning" side of every issue, in order to feel okay.

The root of the strong need to win

Often, the root of a child's competitive behavior that shows up time and time again is some early difficult time in his life. Something like a hospitalization, a severe illness, a separation from a parent, or some other grinding tension at home can leave a child feeling alone. That feeling sticks with a child. It is kept under wraps in the child's emotional memory, but the effect of it shows up in how they interact with others.

With that early emotional ache still held fast inside him, a child sets out to try hard to make himself feel better. When he feels like he is in control—he's first, or best, or the boss—the ache doesn't seem so bad. He carries the emotional memory of desperately needing attention, the attention he couldn't feel when he was ill, threatened, or when his family was under stress.

So, under the guise of proving himself every 15 minutes, a child will make repeated bids for the attention he didn't get, way back then. There's no crisis now, but the feeling of needing attention immediately is insatiable. No matter how much attention a child gets for being first or best or the boss, it never feels like enough. He needs more, ever more!

Super-competitive children will often sign for your help

Super-competitive children need attention, but not in the way they are seeking it. They need their parents to come close, to show them affection, to show their love. But they don't need to win all the time! And they don't need to be first, or the boss, all the time.

What they do need is a chance to offload the emotional hurt that's left over from early helpless times, so that they can feel closer to those around them, and more open to the give and take of life. A parent is in the very best position to relieve the sting of early hard times that's at the root of the super-competitive behavior. You don't really need to know what makes your child so competitive—you might have a guess, but no analysis of the root of the problem is necessary. What is helpful is the use of two very powerful listening tools: Playlistening and Staylistening.

These tools help your child secure laughter (that's not forced by tickling, but is encouraged by nuzzling, wrestling, and affection) and great big hearty cries, with your support. These emotional release valves let the tension out, and let your child feel you are caring. They help heal the hurt, as long as you are there to pour in your love and your confidence that your child's life is good.

Playlisten to reassure your child that they're loved and to secure laughter

Playlistening is playing to evoke laughter, but without forcing it—in other words, no tickling allowed. With a super competitive child, two kinds of Playlistening are helpful. In one, you lose again and again and allow them to win. You playfully keep trying, you playfully never give up hope, but your child is the victor. You watch for what makes your child laugh, and you keep doing that, and variations on that theme.

The older and more capable a child is, the more of a contest you have to set up with them, but don't try to be skilled at a sport. Set up contests that let you show affection. "I've got 100 kisses for you" is a good one, where you chase him and catch him and try to land a kiss, and your child gets away Scot free often, but not all of the time. You keep trying. "Come on, feel the love!" is what I tell my grandson when we're playing this kind of affection game. You can complain that your kisses need a place to land, a lovely place to land.

Or, when your child arrives first at the kitchen table at lunch on Saturday and announces it to make his sister feel bad, just say, "Okay, I get to hug the guy who got here first! Yes, I do!" and chase him all through the house, giving him a good contest. Matter of fact, you can do that for many of the "wins" he announces.

You can vary your affectionate response. "The prize for First is a noogie on the head. Come here, you handsome Champ, you!" or "Yay, you came in first at the car door! The guy who comes first gets to be lifted into the car upside down! And the girl who comes in second gets lifted into the car right side up!" Or, "Hey, look who's first again. You know what I do with the one who's first? He gets a great big snuggle from me!" followed by a really big squeeze. You give an affectionate squeeze to the child who's second, too.

This kind of response will get laughter going around being first and will help you bring your super-competitor your affection and energy many times a day, warming up your relationship with him, and beginning to fill that aching need for reassurance that lies underneath his drive to be first. As laughter rolls, he's receiving your attention and affection. It reaches his emotional center. It helps heal the hurt.

When several children are playing together, and your super-competitor is loudly announcing that he's first, again and again, join the game. Come in last, and let the children all laugh at your last-place finish. "Hey, Joey is first! Helen is second! Ray-Ray is third, and, oh no, not again! I'm last??!! Yikes, last again!" will help them play together without feeling less than.

When your child loses, or when you set limits on their bossiness, staylisten

As you get laughter going in your household, and pursue affectionate contests and playful responses to your child's hunger for winning, his sense of emotional safety will build. You'll notice that he becomes more explosive when little things disappoint him. This is a sign of progress! When he is upset, you have a golden opportunity to move closer, and to pour in the love and reassurance he so badly needed earlier in his life.

The disappointment over a sandwich cut wrong, or a video game he is not allowed to finish because its bedtime will be enormous. And all that emotion is there, not because he's lost his mind, but because that was the size of the emotional hurt he sustained when he was much smaller, much more vulnerable, and deeply in need of someone to listen to him.
So, listen. Stay close. Don't give in to a sensible limit you have set. "I know it's hard to let your sister have her turn at that game. She doesn't do it the way you would," is what you say while your child fights and kicks to get away from you, wanting to run and grab the game away from her. You stay. You keep her safe from his intrusion. He cries and fights, safe but very unhappy, in your arms, while you say now and then, "I know you don't want her to touch it. But it's her turn, and you'll get another turn in a while."

Allow him to feel desperate. To feel like his world is so unfair. To feel like nothing is right. To feel like everything is ruined for him. These are feelings erupting from the past, splashing onto the present in a big, messy way. This is what heals the hurt that makes it hard for him to accept others and to play with others, rather than against them.

As you stay with your upset child, he may become panicky. "I need to get out! Don't hold me here! I need to breathe! I can't breathe!" or "I'm burning up!" or "I'm thirsty, you have to get me some water! I need water now!" This panic is a key part of releasing fear. He needs you to guide him through his panic, without trying to fix it. He may indeed be hot, but he's not going to die. He may indeed feel thirsty, but another few minutes without a drink will be OK. What he most needs is your confidence that he's going to make it, that his life will be good, and that you're not going to leave him stranded.

Don't get too busy trying to fix anything. Just lift his shirt and blow on his tummy if he is hot. Or offer to carry him in your arms to get water, if he's thirsty. Usually, a child who is panicked will refuse to let you carry him to get a drink. Being carried continues the closeness you provide, and it's no escape from facing and feeling how frightened he once was. He knows he doesn't need a drink that badly. If he does, he'll let you carry him there.

When you have listened enough, and his mind is finally free of the grip of stale-dated emotions, he'll be glad to be close to you. He may cry some, but not while fighting you. He'll lean in for support and love. And whatever the issue was that set him off will resolve in his mind, usually without rancor toward anyone. He'll be able to let it go. And you will most likely see some changes in his behavior that signal that he's gained a little flexibility.

He showed you how bad it felt once. You received his feelings, listened, and stayed through the storm. His need to prove himself goes down a notch, though he may have to show you his feelings a number of times before he can become a truly less-than-super-competitive child.

A listening partner will help you listen and play well

Things will progress even faster if you can create a Listening Partnership for yourself, so you can talk to a non-judgmental parent about your feelings about your super-competitor. You may feel like he's "bad," or feel like he's ruining your family's peace and serenity, or worry that he's never going to learn to play well with others. These feelings need to be heard by someone who will just let you have your say.

It will help to talk about your pregnancy and the birth of your child, and how things went during his first year or two. If you find things to be angry about or to cry about there, go ahead! Or if you're tempted to yell at or lecture your super-competitor, a Listening Partner is the ideal person to do that with. Letting off your own emotional steam will make it easier to play affectionately so that laughter ensues, and to listen to your child when he feels the chips are down so that he is ever surer of your love.

Originally posted on Hand in Hand Parenting.

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

Price: $15.99

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2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

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3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

"When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

Price: $11.99

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4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

"I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

Price: $10.25

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5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

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7. Medela Double Electric Pump

"I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

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8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

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9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

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10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

"Because I didn't plan to breastfeed I didn't buy a pump before birth. When I decided to try, I needed a pump so my husband ran out and bought this. It was easy to use, easy to wash and more convenient than our borrowed electric pump." —Heather

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11. Milkies Fenugreek

"I struggled with supply for my first and adding this to my regimen really helped with increasing milk." —Mary N.

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

"I exclusively pumped for a year with my first and these are hands down the best storage bags. All others always managed to crack eventually. These can hold a great amount and I haven't had a leak! And I have used over 300-400 of these!" —Carla

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

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This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Orange Is the New Black star Danielle Brooks is pregnant and frustrated. The actress took to Instagram this week to lament the lack of plus-sized options for pregnant people.

"It's so hard to find some clothes to wear today....Although I get to pregnant I still can't find no clothes. It's so hard to find some clothes when you're pregnant," she sings in a lighthearted yet serious video.

"It's so hard to find cute plus size maternity fashion while pregnant, but ima push through," she captioned the clip.

Brooks has been talking a lot this week about the issues people who wear plus size clothing face not just when trying to find clothes but in simply moving through a world that does not support them.

"I feel like the world has built these invisible bullets to bully us in telling us who we're supposed to be and what we're supposed to look like. And I've always had this desire to prove people wrong—to say that this body that I'm in is enough," she told SHAPE (she's on the new cover).

"Now that I'm about to be a mother, it means even more—to make sure that this human being I'm going to bring into the world knows that they are enough," she said.

Danielle Brooks is the body-positive hero we need right now. Now can someone make her some cute maternity clothes, please?

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In prior decades, body image issues usually didn't hit the scene until kids reached adolescence. But thanks to social media, and our culture's relentless pursuit of thinness, we now have to find creative ways to teach young children how to develop healthy body images.

Before I dive into some practical tips to help kids improve body image, I want to first diminish any shame that you might be feeling if you have body issues of your own. It's so important to remember that you downloaded every internal message from somewhere else. Of course, it's critical to work on your own issues, but it's also important to know it is not your fault that you developed them in the first place!

So, whether you are struggling with your own body image, or you love your body, here are some tools to help your child feel better about the precious body he or she lives in:

1. Break the spell

How do you know if your child has a bad body image? Perhaps they've begun making negative comments about their size or shape. Maybe they are comparing their body to others. Maybe they are avoiding foods or activities they once enjoyed because they feel uncomfortable about their body.

Often the most common response a parent has is to reassure their child that they are “fine," or “beautiful" or “perfect." And while there is certainly nothing wrong with some reassurance, it simply may not be enough to overpower the cultural messages kids are surrounded by. Reassure them that they are perfect just the way they are.

2. Unkind mind, kind mind and quiet mind

This little menu of options encourages kids to identify and differentiate between three different thinking states within themselves. I refer to them as “mind moods." Try teaching your child about these three states of mind and brainstorming examples of each. For example, unkind mind = “I hate my thighs." Kind mind = “I love singing." Quiet mind = Peacefully resting or playing.

This will raise their awareness of their thoughts and help them to choose their mind moods more consciously. As they learn to turn up the volume of their kind minds and spend more time in their quiet minds, they begin to feel more present and peaceful.

Once you have helped your child identify their unkind mind as a distinct voice, they can then try on some different responses and see which ones help bring them some relief. Try asking them to write or say all the messages their unkind mind is saying and practicing using strong, soft, silly or silent responses. Kids can learn that their unkind mind is not all of who they are, and that it doesn't have to run the show.

3. Get to the root

This concept helps kids discover what triggers their body dissatisfaction. You can help your child by asking questions or taking guesses about what might have started their bad body image. For example, I helped one 7-year old get to the root of her body obsession by noticing it started when there was a death in her family. Right around that time, her best friend started talking about dieting, so she latched onto food obsession as a distracting coping tool.

Once we uncovered this, she was able to learn about healthy grieving and truly healthy eating (as opposed to what the diet culture deems as healthy—which can actually be unhealthy).

4. Mind movies vs. really real

Try asking your child to show you some things around them that are real (i.e. things they can see, touch or hear). Then ask them if they can show you one single thought in their minds. You can playfully challenge them to take a thought out of their head and show it to you or fold it up and put it in their pocket. This tool teaches kids how to be more present.

Of course, they might use their imagination to do this, but with some finesse, you can teach your child to distinguish between the mind movies that cause them stress and the really real things around them. This is an immensely helpful tool that will not only help them with body image (since body image is one long mind movie) but will also improve the quality of their lives in general.

5. Dog talk and cat chat

Many kids cannot relate to the concept of being kind to themselves but ask a child how they feel about their favorite pet, and a doorway to their compassion, kindness and unconditional acceptance opens. For non-pet lovers, you can ask your child to imagine how they would speak to a baby or their best friend.

Dog talk and cat chat can help teach youngsters how to take the loving words and tones they use toward a beloved pet, and direct these sentiments toward themselves and their bodies.

6. Do an internal upgrade

In addition to helping your child combat the messages they receive out in the world, you can also work on the messages they get in your home. Again, if you struggle with body image, it is not your fault, but you can work on healing—and not only will you feel more peace, but your child will benefit as well.

To the best of your ability, refrain from talking about foods as “good" or “bad." Refrain from making negative comments about your (or anyone else's) weight or looks. Refrain from praising someone (or yourself) for weight loss.

Practice welcoming your child's tears and anger without trying to change their feelings before they are ready. Practice eating all food groups in moderation. Foster a positive, grateful attitude about your body.

May you and your child feel comfortable in your bodies, eat all foods in moderation, move and rest in ways that feel good, and find abundant sweetness and fulfillment in life.

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Learn + Play

After a long day of doing seemingly everything, when our partners get home it kind of becomes a habit to ask, "How was your day?" In between prepping dinner, handing off the kids, finishing your own work, we don't exactly get much value from this question. Sure, it may open up the opportunity to complain about that awful thing that happened or excitedly share that presentation you killed at work—but it usually stops there.

I could do a better job of really talking in my relationship. After 12 years and two kids, sometimes all we can come up with post bedtime routine is, "You good? I'm good. Fire up the Netflix."

Here are 21 questions to dig deeper into your marriage after a long day—see where they take you!

  1. Did you listen to anything interesting today?
  2. If you could do any part of today over again, what would it be?
  3. How much coffee did you drink today?
  4. Will you remember any specific part of today a year from now? Five years?
  5. Did you take any photos today? What did you photograph?
  6. What app did you open most today?
  7. How can I make your day easier in five minutes?
  8. If we were leaving for vacation tonight, where do you wish we would be heading?
  9. If you won $500 and had to spend it on yourself today, what would you buy?
  10. If your day was turned into a movie, who would you cast?
  11. What did you say today that you could have never expected to come out of your mouth?
  12. What did you do to take care of yourself today?
  13. When did you feel appreciated today?
  14. If you could guarantee one thing for tomorrow what would it be?
  15. If we traded places tomorrow what advice would you give me for the day?
  16. What made you laugh today?
  17. Imagine committing the next year to learning one thing in your spare time. What would it be?
  18. Did you give anyone side-eye today? Why?
  19. What do you wish you did more of today?
  20. What do you wish you did less of today?
  21. Are you even listening to me right now?

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Love + Village

Alexis Ohanian has made a lot of important decisions in his life. The decision to co-found Reddit is a pretty big one. So was marrying Serena Williams. But right up there with changing internet culture and making a commitment to his partner, the venture capitalist lists taking time off after his daughter's birth as a significant, life-changing choice.

"Before Olympia was born, I had never thought much about paternity leave and, to be honest, Reddit's company policy was not my idea. Our vice president of people and culture, Katelin Holloway, brought it up to me in a meeting and it sounded O.K., so why not?" Ohanian writes in an op-ed for New York Times Parenting.

He continues: "Then came Olympia, after near-fatal complications forced my wife, Serena, to undergo an emergency C-section. Serena spent days in recovery fighting for her life against pulmonary embolisms. When we came home with our baby girl, Serena had a hole in her abdomen that needed bandage changes daily. She was on medication. She couldn't walk."

The experience changed the way Ohanian viewed paternity leave. It was no longer something that just sounded like a good thing, it was a necessary thing for his family. It was crucial that he take it and now he is advocating for more fathers to be able to. In his piece for the NYT Ohanian points out something that Motherly has previously reported on: It is hard for fathers to take paternity leave even when their government or employer offers it.

A report from Dove Men+Care and Promundo (a global organization dedicated to gender equality) found 85% of dads surveyed in the United States, the UK, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands would do anything to be very involved in the early weeks and months after their child's birth or adoption, but less than 50% of fathers take as much time as they are entitled to.

Dads need paid leave, but even when they have it social pressures and unrealistic cultural expectations keep them from taking it and they choose not to take all the time they can. Ohanian wants lawmakers and business leaders to make sure that dads can take leave and he wants to help fathers choose to actually take it.

"I was able to take 16 weeks of paid leave from Reddit, and it was one of the most important decisions I've made," Ohanian previously wrote in an essay for Glamour.

Ohanian recognizes that he is privileged in a way most parents aren't.

"It helped that I was a founder and didn't have to worry about what people might say about my 'commitment' to the company, but it was incredible to be able to spend quality time with Olympia. And it was perhaps even more meaningful to be there for my wife and to adjust to this new life we created together—especially after all the complications she had during and after the birth," he wrote for Glamour.

In his NYT piece, Ohanian goes further: "I get that not every father has the flexibility to take leave without the fear that doing so could negatively impact his career. But my message to these guys is simple: Taking leave pays off, and it's continued to pay dividends for me two years later. It should be no surprise that I also encourage all of our employees to take their full leave at Initialized Capital, where I am managing partner; we recently had three dads on paid paternity leave at the same time."

The GOAT's husband is making the same points that we at Motherly make all the time. Research supports paid leave for all parents. It benefits the baby and the parents and that benefits society.

By first taking his leave and then speaking out about the ways in which it benefited his family, Ohanian is using his privileged position to de-stigmatize fathers taking leave, and advocate for more robust parental leave policies for all parents, and his influence doesn't end there. He's trying to show the world that parents shouldn't have to cut off the parent part of themselves in order to be successful in their careers.

He says that when his parental leave finished he transitioned from being a full-time dad to a "business dad."

"I'm fortunate to be my own boss, which comes with the freedoms of doing things like bringing my daughter into the office, or working remotely from virtually anywhere Serena competes. My partners at Initialized are used to seeing Olympia jump on camera—along with her doll Qai Qai—or hearing her babbling on a call. I tell them with pride, 'Olympia's at work today!' And I'll post some photos on Instagram or Twitter so my followers can see it too," Ohanian explains.

"The more we normalize this, on social media and in real life, the better, because I know this kind of dynamic makes a lot of men uncomfortable (and selfishly I want Olympia to hear me talking about start-ups!)," he says.

This is the future of family-friendly work culture. Take it from a guy who created an entire internet culture.

[A version of this post was originally published February 19, 2019. It has been updated.]

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