Competition in Children

“You were placed on this earth to create, not to compete.”
~ Dr. Robert Anthony

In our society, we have often taught our children that to be “number one” or the “winner” is the key to success. Many parents and teachers even feel that competition can be healthy and create a drive in children which is necessary to succeed in our fast paced world.
In fact, the opposite is true. Teaching children to compete against one another is actually sending the message to them that they are not good enough – that they must work harder than someone else to be better. When two compete, only one can win and one must fail. Losing creates feelings of inadequacy and winning sometimes creates a false sense of self-worth based on external factors rather than an internal knowing of one’s true self worth and value.
When we think of what we hope for our children it often includes a healthy self-esteem, a giving spirit, intelligence, health, close relationships and self-love and acceptance. Yet when children are asked to constantly compete against one another in all areas of their life, they can learn to define success and something to be ‘won’. And the desire to win and get that recognition and response from others can become quite addictive and feed the ego rather than the soul. What we should really be teaching our children is how to recognize their true beauty and potential within and how to work with others to create.

This is not to say that a child cannot enjoy being on a sport’s team or be taught to focus and work hard at school. It is not to say that they should not be met with excitement when they win a game or bring home a winning art project. But putting the focus constantly on being the best and beating the rest is sending the wrong message.

When we are able to teach our children to value true cooperation rather than competition, they will feel true success and the magic that sparks when a group of people work together and share ideas toward a common goal and help one another reach their true potential.

How can we as parents create a non-competitive environment yet also prepare our children to cope in a competitive world? This is not an easy task but the values the children learn within the four walls of their home are the ones that tend to follow them into adulthood.

Here are some ideas:

*Try not to use winning as a motivator in your home or class. Things like: “Whoever finishes their food first gets an extra scoop of ice cream.” etc.
*Do your best not to compare your children and their accomplishments to one another – try not to say things like “Did you see how good John was playing the clarinet? That’s
why we tell you to practice all the time!”

*When you speak watch what you say… things like: “Who is daddy’s favorite little boy in the
world?” or “You’re mommy’s little super-star!”

*When your child does his or her best but does not succeed, let them feel as if they did. Success
should be measured by effort rather than end result.

*Watch how competitive you are and what you are modeling for your children. Do you jokingly compete with your spouse about who cooks the best? Do you sometimes talk poorly of others who have not succeeded?
*Purchase cooperative games to enjoy together at home. These games encourage players to all work together to get to a common goal.
*Create opportunities for working together by cooking as a family, doing yard work together and guiding children toward helping one another. If a child is having trouble reaching a glass, ask her sibling to get it down for her. Teach them to help one another and model the same.

*Point out your child’s successes and take the focus off of who won and who lost. Say things like “You did a great job passing the ball to Chris today!”
What are some ways that you feel we can help change our world by teaching children the value of cooperation?

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