Feb 112009

football team mates


Job applications…. raises… promotions…. sometimes life can feel like a competitive sport. Even in childhood, kids are competing for grades, the favor of teachers, or a place on the team.

And there’s nothing wrong with encouraging healthy competition in your children. It can teach kids to perform at their best, foster a better work ethic, breed teamwork and help them to learn to excel. But the key word there is “healthy.”

We’ve all seen the unhealthy kind of competition. I’m talking about the fanatic sports parents who are so focused on winning that they call their children names or keep them from enjoying the camaraderie of peers before and after practice. Or the parents who can’t hide their disappointment when their child brings home a second or third place ribbon. Parents don’t need to make the headlines for abusing a child’s coach to turn a competitive drive a miserable, ego-damaging experience.

One important thing parents can do to make competition a positive force is to separate their kids’ needs from their own. Parents who live
vicariously through their children’s activities sometimes demand that kids perform beyond age or ability. The resulting stress and pressure not only take the fun out of activities but can lead youngsters to cut corners or cheat to make their parents happy.

[Tweet “Celebrate the Effort, Not the Result”]

We all want our children to excel. But it takes years to discover all of their strengths. If they don’t sample everything that comes their way — from kickball to spelling bees — how will they find their strengths? Most parents don’t need to start preparing for the NFL draft in the third grade!

Regardless of the activity a child chooses, parents who reward effort, hard work, and ‘sticking with it until the end’ send an important message.

[Tweet “Is it OK to Lose?”]

In our society, “losing” sometimes translates to “unworthy.” That’s too bad. Losing is a wonderful teacher; high achievers often tell us that it was their biggest losses that taught them the most about winning. Our kids shouldn’t be afraid of losing.

Competition can be a great way to teach hard work, preparation, cooperation, and persistence. It can move kids to manage their inner critics, to improve and become their best. As with so many aspects of being a parent, it’s all in how you approach it.

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