Are You Encouraging Your Child To Be Super Competitive?
Created by Payal Updated on Feb 09, 2020
Sheela’s daughter never finishes her plate of food. But the one time she doesn’t need toworry is when her cousin visits. Then all she needs to do, is to say “Let’s see who finishes first!” The food is polished off in no time, just to win the race.
Researchers claim that most children do not start to compete or to compare their skills with their peers till they are five years old. Most of them cannot work in teams till they are about 10 years old, or for that matter, handle defeat with grace. In fact, temperament, culture, talent and age are all factors, which may determine how a child deals with competition.
Competition Among ChildrenSome children may be very competitive while others shy away from even performing any kind of task in front of 2 or 3 people. In either of the case, most children take competition very seriously. For young children the discipline, control and decision making ability required for competing, is a lot to ask. Moreover, it is seen that overly competitive children may care less for safety.
- While one school of thought with reference to competition believe that children ought to compete and parents should push them towards competition since the world is turning literally to a battlefield day by day while the other is of the view that competition is wrong and children should not be made to compete.
- The proponents of this view, states proof that even in office environments competition does not necessarily lead to better productivity, and children may excel regardless of being competitive.
- Whatever viewpoint one may subscribe to, it is inevitable that our children may have to compete at some stage or other in their home, school or play environments. It is best to be prepared and to prepare them to face it in a positive manner.
Advantages and disadvantages of competition in childrenChild psychologists say that competition is, in itself, not good or bad. But it may have consequences that can be positive or negative. How is competition advantageous to children?
- Skill building: It helps them hone their skills and get better by practice. They also learn about their weaknesses and may want to work towards perfecting the particular skill in question. It also teaches them to set their own goals and work towards fulfilling them. In short, competition can bring in the zeal to excel in children.
- Handling victory and defeat: Competition helps children deal with wins and losses. They can become humble winners and graceful losers if they have experience with successes and failures from a young age.
- Team spirit: Children learn to follow rules, work in teams or perform in front of an audience, skills which may come to use later in life.
Since no two children are the same, some can’t handle competition in a healthy manner. It can become a disadvantage for children if:
- Emotional scarring: It could cause a child emotional trauma. Sometimes they might even stop caring about safety to win a game and harm their own selves or others, physically.
- Loss of confidence: The self-confidence of a child may be marred if they are pushed to win by peers or parents. Low self-confidence may lead to disappointments for a child.
- Aggressive behavior: Being competitive may lead to a child being aggressive towards their competitors or other children. This may be a prime cause of hostility and may have an adverse effect on their empathy towards others.
- Adverse health effects: It may result in mental trauma to the extent that in some cases a child may not be able to sleep or suffer from nausea and headaches, especially before a competition. They may even make up excuses to miss a competition.
- Depression: In extreme cases it may cause depression, sadness and lack of enthusiasm and energy resulting in loss of interest in competitive activities.
It requires the good judgment and a keen eye to realize when the child is not ready to compete. It is best at to give the child some time and develop a readiness to compete rather than imposing competition on them.
Understanding Competition At Different AgesCompetition takes on different forms based on the age of the child. Here are some important things to keep in mind about competition and its effects at the various stages of childhood: Below 8 Years:
- Short attention spans
- Eager learners
- Requires attention
- Needs supervision
- Often cannot work in groups.
- Children at this age may not understand competition.
- Winning or losing might not be important. Competition is still just fun and games to them. They might end up breaking rules to get a task done.
- Children start socializing by the age of 6 and losing may be embarrassing for them.
- Experts stress that parents pushing this age group into competitions may end up impacting their child’s self-esteem.
- Non-competitive skill building games and exercises perhaps may be what a child at this age needs.
- A child at this age may not be prepared to compete in groups yet as the importance of rules is not fully understood, they are not prepared mentally to strategize within set rules to beat their opponent.
- So their natural reaction is to break rules in order to win. They also lack the attention span required for competing. Parents, teachers or coaches should stress on fun and learning at this stage instead of making anything competitive without reason.
- Understands group dynamics
- Understands rules
- Thinking multi dimensionally
- Fears failure
- Develops morality
Understandings of rules at this age make children better players at games.
- A child at this age may understand competition and its implications. Losing may not harm their self-esteem and they may just want to hone their winning skills.
- They can strategize within given set of rules and understand right and wrong. They will usually play fair and accept defeat.
- At this age a child may enjoy competitive games and activities. This mostly is a means for them to display their skills.
- They are now ready to work to win.
- Comparisons are natural but should not be encouraged. A child may not understand undue praise.
13 Years and above:
- Can operate in teams
- Learns to create strategies and think of more than one way of solving problems
- Usually forms groups
By the age of 13 children can usually perform quite well in competitive games and activities.
- They have learnt to play by the rules and to solve problems in more than one way, which helps them work towards winning.
- Losing usually is seen as part of the game.
- They work well in teams in order to succeed. Normally, they may tend to compare their skills to others but this behavior should not be encouraged and they should be taught to be empathetic towards others feelings.
- Continue to let them be their biggest competitors. It is best to tell them “Win or lose, give it your very best shot”.
- Encourage good performance and skill building. Praise when you see them trying their best. Don’t blame failure. Offer to coach without putting pressure to win. Competitiveness and fair play should be encouraged and not just winning.
A Parent’s Role In The Child’s Attitude To CompetitionAs a parent, here are some things you can do to help your child develop a healthy attitude to competition:
- Spend time: It may be a good idea to spend time with your child, doing the activity that they want to excel in. For example, if your child loves dance, in addition to creating opportunities for learning, take her to recitals and shows. This is a great form of positive reinforcement.
- Stress on ethical play: Encourage the spirit of sportsmanship from an early stage.Your child will understand the value of winning and losing gracefully.
- Help him understand failure: By not blaming your child but calling out the situation, it will keep your child from feeling bad about losing. He will learn that it is OK to fail.
- Offer coaching without pressurizing: Pressurizing your child may just build undue pressure on her to perform and also result in self-esteem issues.
- Be a role model: Children learn by example. So when you are a gracious winner or loser and a fair player, your child will learn from you.
- Reward competitive behavior and not just the win: Developing skills to win should be encouraged, not winning at any cost.
- Love unconditionally: Telling your child that it does not matter if he wins or loses, only that he has given it his or her best, has a better positive result.
- Encourage cooperation, not competition: Encouraging your child to help others complete a task, rather than compete, may help him perform better, eventually getting the task done.
- Stop comparing him to other children or siblings. If your child is comparing himself with someone, it is a normal part of growing up, but it is important to not encourage them.
- Children should be made to understand that everyone has different strengths and everyone is good at something.
The argument rages whether we should bring up our children to be competitive or not be part of the rat race. We may subscribe to one view or other, or carefully choose to tread the middle path where we avoid too much of competition among our children but still prepare them to face the big bad world. Whatever path you choose to take, make sure you always show empathy and kindness when dealing with your child. He will soon learn what healthy competition is!
What are your thoughts on competition among children? Share them with us in the comments section!
| Apr 12, 2014
very nice and candid share... but I prefer taking a clear stand on this as an eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind and what anyone can give is always his best shot and the joy and happiness is always in seeing urself as ur best competition. This will leave a better world and happier humans!