My Daughter Is Competitive – and Sometimes, It’s Not Okay
L: Mommy, S (her classmate) is the winner in the Spelling Contest. I don’t like. I want to be the winner.
Me: That’s okay. There’s always next time.
L: No, I want to be the winner. Uhm, mommy, can we practice later so I can be the winner?
Yes, we practiced when we got home. We did our CVC review and asked her to spell simple words so that she will be ready on the next Spelling Contest in school.
The truth is, this is just one of the many instances when my daughter showed her competitiveness. At first, I didn’t mind because she was exhibiting good study habits and was motivated to do better (although she went to a progressive school so there is really no grading system). You can always see her burying herself in her workbooks or reading a book. She enjoys learning new things, so we always introduce a new concept to her.
On the other hand, her being competitive is driving me nuts. Even in little things like who takes a bath first or who woke up first in the morning is a competition for her. There was even an instance when we were jogging around and she got frustrated when her sister went first. Worse, she even looks at her sister as a competition and doesn’t like the feeling of being behind her.
Many child development experts will say that competition, as long as it is healthy, can be good for kids. In fact, competition sets forth the following benefits:
- Prepares them for something bigger later in their lives such as finding a job, getting promoted, or even as simple as acing a test.
- Teaches them important skills like tenacity and developing empathy among others
- The social skills kids gain from competition helps them improve their interaction with other people while learning the value of hard work.
- Develops a child’s problem-solving skills, which can also be beneficial in later life.
- Teaches the kids that those who work hard will be more successful than smartest or brightest.
- Sets your child to be a team player.
What if the child loses? How should parents deal with it to avoid crushing a child’s self-confidence? What can we do to eradicate the culture of “winners” and “losers?” As parents, it is our duty to change our kids’ mindset about competition. Instead of teaching our kids that “s/he should be better and must triumph over the others” or the winning mindset, it is best to make them understand that being in a competition is not about getting ahead all the time but to be encouraging towards others. We should urge our kids to cheer and recognize the efforts of other people to foster cooperation and not just competition. Otherwise, we could be indirectly teaching our kids to do whatever it takes to win, even if it means resorting to unfair practices – and that is not good.
More than that, we, parents, must teach our kids that winning is just one aspect of competition. In fact, there is more to it – and to life – than just trophies, awards, or being first all the time. Despite losing, which normally happens in real life, what matters most is the lessons and experiences gained during the process. After all, failures and disappointments will always be part of life experiences and there is nothing wrong with that.
How to Encourage Healthy Competition in Kids
- Make our child understand that “winning” and “accomplishment” is about setting a goal s/he wants to achieve and working hard for it.
- Parents must be supportive and not the other way around. Surely, we want our kids to emerge victoriously, but putting pressure and expecting too much from what they are capable of are bad precedents and foster negative attitude towards competition.
- Remind our child that the toughest competitor is him/herself. Rather than focusing on why our child didn’t win the first time, use it as a motivation for him/her to do better the next time.
- Reinforce the message that losing is and will always be part of the process, and that’s okay.
- Acknowledge the child’s efforts, regardless of where s/he is in the race.
So, what do I do now?
Being competitive will always be part of my daughter’s nature. Nevertheless, I constantly remind her, sometimes even blurting it out of the blue, that being first won’t happen all the time. There will always be people who will do better than her on that particular instance, but this doesn’t mean that it will make her less of a person.
Yes, I let her experience defeat in some instances – while doing puzzles, during our afternoon exercise, or even in play. Sometimes, she gets mad but there are times when she’s okay with it. She may not yet understood fully the real concept of competition, but with constant reminder, assurance, and support from us, I am sure she will get it. After all, life will always be full of opportunities to experience disappointment and triumph.