Competition is a reality of life
There are two diametrically opposite points of view on whether competition is good or bad for children. We’ve been party to this debate from time immemorial, so much so that some parents’ compliment even the smallest task completed by a child and treat is as an achievement, and others are stingy in their praise unless there is a public / herculean victory to celebrate.
While each one of us will continue to hold different views on this matter, there is no denying the fact that children will encounter competition sooner or later in life. Whether it is on the playground or during college admissions, at work or in finding a soul mate, chances are that life will not hand one everything one wants, and that at some stage there will be some competition that needs to be managed.
So how does one prepare one’s children to manage competition ? Here are some tried and tested tips :
1. From a young age itself, encourage your children to spend time with their siblings, with the extended family and with block friends and teammates. This will help a child see themselves in a group setting and being more comfortable sharing and interacting
2. Encourage participation in group activities, in working together to create something. Showcase shared responsibility, and how two minds will always be better than one.
3. Celebrate the different skill sets that people within a group have. Actively showcase how one child may be more creative, and the other more action oriented, and how the two can get together to make, say, a better tree house. Division of roles or divide and conquer is an easy lesson at this stage, with the child who is more creative taking the lead for designing the project and being the helper for the rest, and the more active child taking the lead for the construction, and deferring on design aspects
4. Emphasize the fun and joy in participation, in just doing something together to the best of one’s ability, rather than always worrying about the outcome. Sometimes the fun in a fishing trip is the whole idea of the road trip, the serenity of the day and yes the fish caught, if any
5. Balance group activity with one on one time / quality time especially with parents but also with elder family members. This will encourage discipline, obedience, respect and even questioning things. A fishing trip or a joint adult-child project is a good example here
6. Analyze activity after a contest. Look for good work done, even if there was no win. Look for areas of improvement, even in case of a win. After all, what is good today can always be better tomorrow !
7. Encourage learning from others. Voice respect for the talent and skills of ones competitors. Ensure your child understands that admiring a job well done by the other team is independent of the results of the competition
8. Focus equally on important skills where a child may not be doing as well. This helps the child understand that people are generally better at some things than others, but that we need all the basic skills to get through life
9. Teach resilience, encourage your child to learn from his / her failures. Teach compassion, getting your child to empathize with a friend who may not have done as well
10. Be very careful of your own verbal and non-verbal messaging. Acknowledge without pressurizing, and encourage without discouraging.
Happy competing !