Child Development, Social & Emotional Development

Surviving Competition in this Competitive World

“Life has never been a race, and it need not be.”

“You need to try harder!”

“You can do much better!”

“You should always aim for the best!”

The above statements are some of the basic lines parents intentionally or unintentionally say to their children. This is nothing but pressure and a demand to push kids to do better also known as “COMPETITION.”

There is nothing wrong in being competitive unless things go out of hand. There is a saying “Children are the reflection of who you are.” The person who came up with this saying surely had his/her share of experiences as a child. Then there is a term called as “HEALTHY COMPETITION,” that gives a better perspective of competition, the question is, where to draw the line? How much is good? How to change your strategy and what approach to take next.

To answer the following questions, it is significant to first understand what competition is and what are the factors that competition in the first place.

In simple definition Competition is the activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others.

let us look at the above definition,

Striving or gaining something what others don’t have. Let me ask you a question, from your personal experiences has this always been a successful approach or also lead to certain disappointments?

Defeating or establishing superiority over others is not something conscious parents teach their kids, because later in life, children wouldn’t be able to deal with life’s challenges especially on an emotional level.

In short the entire definition means; “Let’s start a war” and this is not what we are looking for, nor are we wanting to imbibe such values in our children

Moderate Competition for children is acceptable, but extreme competition can cause great distress to a child.

Factors that influence competition

  • Societal pressures

There are parents who want to catch up with other parents and their children that they tend to coerce their kids into learning from other kids. Parents tend to compare with other parents, and as the child is growing up, parents put this stress on the child’s shoulder intentionally or unintentionally.

  • Unfulfilled dreams

It so happens that some parents are so disheartened by themselves and their capabilities that what they could not achieve during their childhood, they push their dreams onto their offerings, expecting them to be that what they could not be. Unfortunately, coercing children to be something they don’t want to be is only going to cause more rebellion and distress.

  • Close to perfection

For some parents the term “Perfection” has been overrated, to the point that they work their kids to reach that top spot where “nothing seems to be wrong.” Well, sorry to say, you are just creating disaster for your child and yourself. We have always learnt and acknowledged that there is no such thing as a perfect human being and it is true, being perfect is not the goal parents need to set but to teach children how to be happy with themselves from their learning and experiences.

  • Competition is learnt

Children are not born with the desire to compete, it is learnt. They start to compare and contend their skills with others when they reach 5 years of age, most kids struggle to work in a team until they are 10 or 11 years of age and also understand how to accept defeat gracefully, at the age of 10-11 years.

How to identify the positive effects of competition in a child?

A constructive competition helps a child understand that it is not the best or the smartest person who is successful but the one that works hard and smart that gives results.  To identify if a child is having a healthy competition is to look for the following signs:

  • Willingly shows interest to take part in various games and activities.
  • Shows enthusiasim in learning and acquiring more skills.
  • There is a rise in their self-esteem.
  • They enjoy and also show willingness to improve themselves.
  • Learn to work and cooperate in a team.
  • Develops control over their emotions.
  • Brings forth a spark of creativity in the child

How to identify the negative effects of competition in a child?

If children are involved in extreme competitions, look for the signs below:

  • Would not show interest and avoid activities involving team work.
  • Their behavior can get aggressive.
  • Show signs of fear, anxiety, and depression.
  • Lack of sleep and appetite.
  • They are constantly worried and want to always aim for perfection.

When competition is unhealthy it can cause harm to a child’s physical, emotional and mental well being.

How can a parent change their approach while dealing with a child under such competitive stress?

First of all identifying your child’s abilities and taking it one step at a time to reach their goals but this requires going a level above your child’s abilities, which is necessary as it develops a feeling of excitement towards their goals. Other than indulging in the race, it is significant to make a child experience the process of competition rather than focusing on the final outcome. This way the child is ready to tackle competition of any kind and deal with failures without overindulging in negative emotions. Life has never been a race, and it need not be , it’s we who make it a race.

“Real learning comes about when the competitive spirit has ceased.” 

― Jiddu Krishnamurti