Teaching Healthy Competition
"The label 'competitive' frequently calls forth visual images of children who not only expect to win all the time, but don’t deal well with losing. Examples of competitiveness shared with me often include relentless arguments with teachers about extra points on test grades, cheating to get good grades or win at sports, losing tempers or pouting at times of defeat, obnoxious bragging about victories and quitting activities or making excuses rather than coping with losing. Those negative characteristics of poor competitors give competition a bad reputation and may even cause children to deny their competitive feelings rather than cope with them healthfully.
Most children would like to be best at something, whether it be favorite in the family, best at academics, sports, music, art, or most beautiful or popular. While good athletic coaches typically try to guide children to good sportsmanship, classroom teachers and parents rarely address competition issues in the home or classroom. Children struggling to cope with competition are more likely to be berated for jealous feelings instead of receiving assistance in how to cope with normal jealousy. Calling children 'jealous' may cause them to lose hope and confidence, thus stealing from them their abilities to initiate healthy involvement in competitive activities. They may feel like losers and feel guilty for wishing they could win.
In my research on the childhoods of successful women, winning in competition was the most frequently mentioned positive experience. Furthermore, many women described defining moments where they learned from their losing experiences. Winning can be exhilarating and motivating for all children, and all children can learn from losing experiences."
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