Is competitive competition good for kids or is it bad? This is the question I have struggled with as a mother. Personally, competition has always made me hurt in my stomach and taken away the ability to think and stay calm. Personally, I gave it the power to pass judgement on my capability. So, it has always been bad for me. But, what about my kids? Should I shield them from the monster named “competition” or should I teach them to embrace it and make it a learning tool? I don’t know the answer.
So, I studied the personality of my first-born. I saw that he enjoyed challenges. I homeschool and so, he wasn’t exposed to rigorous everyday competition. He was never compared to other kids as a child. Once, I did let him participate in a swim meet as a 6 year old. I noticed that he didn’t care that he was the last one. I enjoyed this fact but I didn’t encourage further participation. I let it be as it is. Hence, I exposed him to challenges but not to competition at an early age. If he failed in a challenge, it didn’t mean anything other than that let’s figure this out together. It didn’t mean that he is not smart enough. Then, we exposed him to competitions like regional science fair. Being homeschooled, he had no idea about the work of other kids. So, his circumstances taught him to pay attention to only his own learning and performance and not that of his peers. So, when a big competition like History Bee came to us as an opportunity, we took one step at a time. I paid attention to his feelings and kept telling him to enjoy and not to worry about winning. I told him that he may win or may not but he has succeeded in either case because he has learnt a lot of history and that’s the goal! So, he embraced the competition with joy. He enjoyed participating. Losses made him disheartened for a short while but not sad. Each win boosted his confidence and the faith that hard work pays. We celebrated either way. So, competition has lost its evil hold and is a friend of my first born. We will see how this works out as he grows.
Now, my second born is a different story. I studied his personality and saw that he doesn’t enjoy challenge. So, I shielded him. I challenged him just a little each day. If it got him worried, I told him to take a break and come back to it. Gradually, his tension with challenges has minimized and slowly, he is able to take more challenges. Also, watching his elder brother compete has given him the advantage of witnessing a competition and getting comfortable with the idea. There are days when he surprises us as he did during the quiz competition in science fair at Ole Miss. He raised his hand and wanted to participate. I just couldn’t believe it! He was one of the most eager ones to answer and he performed so well and felt so proud of himself. So, slowly he is making friends with competitions. We will see how this works out for him as he grows.
Therefore, the only thing I have learnt is that competitions can be good for kids but we need to train their emotional capability to make friends with it. Let not competition become the master that pronounce judgement on you. Let it be just be a learning tool. Also, too much of anything is bad. Hence, too much of competition can be a stress tool rather than learning tool. So, we need to keep a balance as far as competition is concerned.