Kids and competition go together like peanut butter and jelly. If you have kids, you know this. You don’t have to teach them how to compete. They figure it out all on their own. Then everything becomes a competition.
Am I right?
I recently read an article about why competition between kids is bad. This isn’t the first article or post I’ve seen of its type – it seems to be an increasingly popular idea.
They’re now developing games where the point is not to have a winner. Games such as Hoot Owl Hoot from Peaceable Kingdom games company are intended to be cooperative, so that there are no winners or losers.
Now don’t get me wrong. It’s definitely important for kids to learn how to work together to solve a problem. I’m not against the idea. But I’m also not against the idea of competition.
At the risk of sounding a little fanatical, a society without competition is the idea behind communism. And a lot of the ideas we embrace and teach our kids today stem from communist doctrine.
For instance, the “everybody gets a prize” concept. These day, it’s not acceptable to only reward the winner of the game. We must also give out participation prizes or – worse yet – force the winner to share their prize with everyone else.
Does this sound familiar? It’s the same idea behind “everyone gets paid the same wage, regardless of how hard they work (or don’t)”. And we saw how well that went down.
Importance of competition in society
It stimulates improvement, keeps prices low, and shows areas of strength and weakness.
That being said, my area of expertise is not in economics, politics, or industry. I write a parenting blog.
So let’s talk about why competition is healthy for kids.
Let’s be honest. When you were a kid, did you want to go run for fun? I sure didn’t. If someone told me we were gonna go run a mile just for the joy of running a mile, I’d laugh and head to the park. But what happens when it’s a race? Suddenly you’re more inclined to agree. There’s an element of fun when you have something to prove.
In my post 5 Creative Ways to Make Kids WANT to Clean Up I wrote about how competition can inspire an easier clean up.
Kid intrinsically enjoy competition. Even those that can’t handle it very well. It’s a great motivator to get them doing something that is actually good for them, but they might not choose to do on their own.
Helps them get better
Kids are more likely to try their best when they’re enjoying a good competition. A child on their own may do a slow, haphazard job of cleaning his room. But when you challenge him to compete with his sibling and see who can do a better job, suddenly he’s putting forth 10x more effort than before. That room will be spotless.
In the same way, a child is going to get faster and build up his endurance by racing against his friends and playing sports.
One of the most satisfying feelings in the world is winning. It’s addicting, isn’t it? It’s why we play sports, board games, card games. It’s why we have “employee of the month” prizes, chili cookoffs, and dog shows. The world literally runs on competition.
It’s a huge confidence booster to be named the winner of something. You suddenly feel more sure of yourself in that area of life. Especially if, a few months ago, you weren’t winning in that activity. You can measure your improvement and feel good about it.
But you can’t always win, right? So how does losing help?
Improves social skills
Both winning and losing a competition require certain behavior and actions.
Being a gracious winner means withholding that sinister desire to gloat. Children have to learn this as well. What happens when someone is a mean winner? They get a negative response from their friends, maybe even from parents. This lets them know that their behavior is not acceptable.
Being a gracious loser means acknowledging the skill of the winner without being peevish about it. Children can learn to build each other up, rather than tearing each other down. It is imperative that children learn how to lose before they are sent out on their own in the real world. Becoming vindictive over a loss in adulthood can lead to much more serious consequences.
Competition teaches kids that there will always be someone a little better and a little worse than them, and it’s important to treat both with dignity.
Prepares kids for life
It seems one of the main reasons parents withhold children from competition is because they believe that the pressure their child experiences is a negative thing.
What they don’t consider is the importance of teaching their children how to deal with pressure, because pressure will always be a part of life. Pressure to do well on tests, pressure to meet tough deadlines at work, pressure to find the right person to marry.
A little competition in childhood is good preparation for children dealing with stressful emotions in a healthy way, and learning how to release those feelings once the competition is over.
Competition also allows children to control the feelings of fear and anxiety that manifest when they know they are under scrutiny. Sure, it can be nerve-wracking for anyone in an job interview or tryouts for a part in a show. But participating in competition gives them experience in peer-reviewed situations and provides an accurate assessment of their skills.
Ways to get healthy doses of competition in
Family game nights
Get the whole family in on a board game or card game. Here are some of my favourites!
Sign junior up for a sports camp this summer. It will give him plenty of opportunity for exercise and social interaction while you get a little break to get some chores done or take a trip to the hair salon.
Get everyone in on some good old-fashioned corn hole, four square, or hide and seek!
Clean-up and chores
Create competitions between siblings to see who can clean up the fastest, or do the best job.
5 Mistakes to Avoid When Your Child Loses a Competition (Sleeping Should Be Easy)
Why Competition Can Be Healthy for Kids (Mindshift)