The Benefits of Healthy Competition for Kids

Jan 5, 2018

As parents, we have all done it at one time or another. Whether it was to avoid a meltdown or to allow your child to have a moment of glory, we have all let our kids win at something once or twice. While this one single act in itself is not a damaging scenario, if this is done EVERY time you and your child face some sort of win/lose competition, you may not be benefitting them at all. In fact, competition, if set up and executed in the right environment and circumstance, can be extremely beneficial for children. These 6 benefits of healthy competition for kids will have you re-thinking how your child competes, and the expectations involved.

Winning Every Time is Not Realistic

We all would love nothing more than to be the ultimate winner at everything we attempt. The reality is that we won’t be a winner every time. There will inevitably be someone better, stronger, quicker, smarter etc. who will come along and swoop up that victory from under our nose. Children are no different. The lesson learned from losing is lost upon children who are always allowed to win. Losing teaches children humility and self-reflection. It pushes them to look for ways to improve in the future.

Pressure Drives Children to Achieve

This does not mean constantly nagging children to work harder, push more and drive themselves to the point of exhaustion. The kind of pressure that is healthy and productive is the kind that comes and goes in waves. There is a build-up of the pressure, the pressure situation and then an ending where children are finished competing and time to rest is allowed for, along with digesting the final results. Examples of this type of competition can be found in especially in classrooms, where teachers hold math competitions, such as learning the multiplication tables. The competition runs for two weeks and children are encouraged to learn their “times tables” and recite them to their teacher fully and correctly to be the winner. The teacher could opt for a second and third place if he/she chooses. This timed competition puts pressure to learn, makes it fun and light, while participating with friends and peers.

Learn New Skills Faster

When children feel that there may be a reward at the end of learning something new, they are driven to that goal much quicker. For example, enrol your child in piano lessons much to their dismay and watch them groan each lesson day at the thought of sitting through another “boring” lesson. As stated by Serious Parenting “exposure to music or a musical instrument will open your child up to a world and a set of critical skills which can be carried on into later life.” In their eyes, there is no end result or reason for them to learn the piano. Instead, find them a great portable piano, and then enrol them in a piano competition. Along with practicing at home, they’ll happily head out the door for lessons to improve their skills for the big competition day

Losing Reduces Entitlement

How often have you wondered why this generation of children has become so self-entitled? The answer is that it is our faults. Allowing kids to win every time or get a trophy at the end of every tournament despite the results, has taught them to feel entitled to win.Sure, there will be disappointment and maybe even a few tears shed, but learning from those low moments is just as valuable as achieving success. Humility follows a loss, where children learn they aren’t always going to be the big winner and receive high praise for every single action they take, which is great practice for the real world.

True Competition Allows Success

As a sports-oriented parent, I can’t tell you how many tournaments my children have participated in only to find out that at the end, everyone in the tournament receives a trophy. When did this become the norm? Children have been robbed of that feeling of ultimate success and accomplishment after a fine job and hard work when they win the overall competition. When every participant receives an award of some type, the true feeling of success/victory/accomplishment is numbed a little. I mean, why bother trying too hard when they know that in the end everyone gets a reward? Kids need to experience the highs of competing along with the lows to fully benefit from the purpose of it all.

Competition Encourages Self-Esteem and Belief

Building children up in the practicing phase helps them to understand their own strengths and weaknesses. They can work hard to improve and prepare themselves for the next upcoming competition and attempt to do even better than the last competition if there was one. These healthy scenarios help children build self-esteem and self-belief. They see the results of their work and have adults encouraging them and cheering them on to do their own personal best. This does not happen when children are screamed at from the stands, lectured for hours at home about their performance or bullied to go harder. A healthy competition environment encourages personal achievement along with success in the overall picture.

Having our children involved in healthy competition allows them to learn and grow much faster than sheltering them from the highs and lows of such activity. As  aptly puts it -“Without competition, you’d be on cruise control, with no worries in the world.” This is not to say it is okay to push kids past their capabilities with strenuous schedules or constant negative talk. It is our job as adults, not to allow our kids to be winners every time, but to foster a safe environment where they can compete and achieve an end result whether it be a win or a loss. From there, it is our job further to help them process that result and help them learn from how it makes them feel, how they can change the result next time and to strive for more if that is what they wish for. We must prepare ourselves for tears, disappointment and even anger if our kids don’t succeed in every competition and learn how to handle those emotions ourselves to help our own children learn and grow too.

Author: Jude McLean

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