When did putting our children down become social currency?

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

I've noticed something upsetting lately when I catch up with other parents. Nobody is boasting about their kids any more - all the communication seems to be about how crap our kids are. It's like it's become our weird way of bonding with one another. 

"How's Charlie going?" 

"Ugh, he's had detention twice since the school year started already - I think I'm raising a delinquent."

"How's Amelia?"

"She put her Polly Pocket in the toaster yesterday and shorted out the whole kitchen. Honesty, I'm already counting down the days until I can tell her to move out."

We laugh and joke as we compare children and whose kid is the worst. Remember when people couldn't get enough of bragging about their kids? My mothers' group was bursting at the seams with parents who wouldn't shut up about how gifted and talented their little snowflake was. 

Everyone's baby was walking early, talking early, and taking on university-level calculus by the time they were out of nappies. It was exhausting, but also understandable. I mean, we're programmed to love our kids and think they're great, right?

So when did we stop boasting and start roasting? 

I suspect it's quite an Australian thing. Tearing down tall poppies is our national sport, and we can't stand people that are too full of themselves. We've never felt comfortable blowing our own horn to the point of savage self-deprecation, and that has now filtered down into the way we speak about our kids.

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That's always been the case, but in the current political climate, we feel the need to keep our achievements to ourselves more than ever. 

From the US we're seeing a president who is more comfortable than anyone in the history of the universe articulating his own brilliance – as well as that of his children. Just this week he bragged that his daughter Ivanka has created "millions of jobs" since he took over the White House. 

And here I am telling people my six-year-old still can't tie her own shoes. 

Bragging at Trump level makes us cringe, and with the 24-hours news cycle and the constant fascination with the whole Trump circus, we're constantly faced with his latest victories and self-proclaimed awesomeness. 

Add to that the "highlight reel" that is social media, where we see everyone succeeding and looking filtered beyond belief. It's enough to make us all feel like a pack of losers. 

But we're not – and our children certainly aren't either. I'm proud of my three children and all they accomplish, and I want them to feel that too. 

None of us is perfect, but where's the benefit to putting our children down when we're supposed to be their greatest champions? And even if we're just doing it when they're out of earshot, it bleeds into our psyche and it paints the way we see them, not to mention how we feel about ourselves.

Negativity breeds negativity, and I'm making a conscious effort to be an uplifting presence in my children's lives. Because sure, pointing out their flaws can elicit a laugh or two and temporarily ease some tension, but our jobs are bigger than that. We're supposed to be raising children who are confident enough to go out into the world on their own some day.

I want mine to go out with their heads held high, knowing they're loved and supported. But first I'd better teach them how to tie their shoelaces.