With the new competition coming up in this month of November, where the winner will receive six of George’s children’s books signed by him, it gets one thinking about the element of competition. It’s a relatively new debate among parents, psychologists, coaches and teachers; one that raises the argument – is competitiveness a good or a bad thing for children.
Let’s first look at some of the cons.
Some, especially many in the USA, will say that competition is imperative for kids to grow up to be the best they can be. However, others (including a large portion of the USA) say that it can debilitate young children as well.
The argument comes when we see that not all children are born winners. However, what are they being told to win at? One might want their child to be a champion sprinter on the track, but perhaps that child simply has no passion for it, or doesn’t necessarily have the stamina or build for becoming a star runner. Perhaps that child is actually heading toward being the next Richard Branson with more brain than brawn?
Competitiveness can also be a gray area because it can lead to the losers (for lack of a better word) either becoming entirely despondent over the activity or, even worse, it could ruin their self-esteem and lead to depression. In a world where so many youngsters are depressed or confused these days, we have to wonder if the pressures of being the best are just a bit too much for them?
Competitiveness can also lead to burnout in a child, in a sense that they practice so hard to be the best that they actually exert themselves to burnout point. Now this is not good, as a child with a fierce spirit might not recognize this at first - until they collapse one day, unable to get back up.
Aside from sport, being bigger and better than anyone else can also lead to ego issues; a certain arrogance unless the child learns to humble themselves. They could also become feared for this, which could lead to them being unable to make friends.
Then there’s the issue of when the pressures finally become too much; the winner turns to drugs or steroids to cope with the pressure, which nearly every time leads to disaster.
Another point to raise is that competitiveness can also lead to a decrease in performance and motivation. For example, a teenage girl who really loves cross-country running; she has a natural talent for endurance and loves it so much, it’s all she wants to do. She wins a few races and eventually gets chosen to represent her country. But now it’s not fun anymore – now it’s all about winning. Sponsors down her back, media in her face…
The point of this brief example is that without the element of fun and a true passion for what you’re excelling in, often the activity becomes a task, a command, rather than an aspect or talent that was once so abundant.
Now let’s take a look at some of the pros, from George’s perspective.
Competition can indeed also strengthen kids, if they learn how to react appropriately to both winning and losing.
“I feel that there is nothing wrong with losing, no matter what the sport. Everybody can't cross the finish line first. My whole family and I competed in water-skiing races for more than twenty-five years. I have pulled (behind racing boats) skiers to victory and to defeat.
Losing was an important lesson for our kids who started racing at the age of five years. I skied my last race at the age of seventy. Some of our young skiers fell before finishing the water-ski race. My own daughter was almost permanently paralyzed when she fell while competing for the National Championship finals held in San Diego at Mission bay.
I and other parents experienced the emotions of being happy when our kids skied well, but then we also taught our children that losing any race is okay, as long as you did your best in the competition. Competition is okay as long it is fair, and as long as kids learn the main lesson of trying their best. Win or lose, they will be loved - even if they lose every race.
The best baseball team in the USA were - and are - the Chicago Cubs. They have not won the World Series in over one-hundred years. They just did! The point here is that the Cubbies (fans) loved the game and their team, and loved them whether they won or lost a baseball game.
Sure it is better to win, and we should try to win if we can, but losing is not the end of the world. Be a good sport and learn how to deal with both winning and losing.”
Overall, if kids are going to be competitive these days, it can only help for them to be taught how to pace themselves, how to deal with being the best and losing, how to treat others who perhaps don’t make the grade, and how to keep a level-head about their abilities to excel.
In conclusion - while there is no solid answer to the debate, if parents are going to be assertive about their children excelling in one field or another, they should really concentrate and make sure that the activity they’re driving them in is one the child has a real passion for. Then, of course, take the time to teach them well, so that they’ll not only be great at what they do, they’ll also be admired for their personality, grace, sportsmanship and tenacity.
Copyright George Green © 2016 Rancho Mirage, CA, USA