It doesn’t seem to make sense, does it?
How can everyone be a winner when the whole point of competition is to establish winners – and losers?
However, there is more to be won in competition than prizes and recognition.
Competition has become somewhat of a dirty word. Something to be thrown out and replaced with ‘cooperation’.
We tell our kids that winning doesn’t matter. It’s how you play the game that counts.
We tell them they are already winners because they ‘gave it a go’.
This is true to some extent, but, if they are already winners, why put in the hard work to do better?
COMPETITION IS A MOTIVATOR
That’s the beauty of competition, it’s a great motivator. Competition motivates people to work towards excellence.
Now, we can tell children that the only competition that matters is the one against themselves. This is a great incentive to improve on your last effort in any given task.
It’s a fair call. But the truth is, we are not walking this planet alone. We are surrounded by other people who act as mirrors, helping us to understand ourselves just a little bit better.
COMPETITION IS A FORM OF COOPERATION
Healthy competition is a form of cooperation. It’s the way we push each other out of complacency and onto the road towards excellence.
It feeds our determination, persistence and resilience. It promotes creative thinking as we work out ways to get closer to that ‘win’ next time.
We may be able to shelter children from the perceived downside of competition. But at what cost?
They will enter an adult world that is full of competition. They will have to compete for jobs and houses for starters.
Unlike their youthful days of receiving a sporting trophy just for participation, they will not get that job just because they turned up for an interview. For participating.
Children who are constantly rewarded for participation, rather than performance, are receiving the message they can win without putting in the hard work.
They gain an attitude of entitlement.
Competition teaches children that they can’t always win and, while that may be disappointing, fear of losing can cripple them.
Those stymied by a fear of losing will shun new experiences and refuse to take risks that will lead to a happier and healthier life.
Psychologist Dr Sylvia Rimm, who specialises in child development and learning, claims that competition is good for children as it teaches them that failure can occur.
When it does, they learn to ‘identify the problems, remedy the deficiencies, reset their goals, and grow from their experiences.
Coping with competition requires understanding that winning and losing are always temporary occurrences. Children who learn to lose without being devastated and use failure experiences to grow will begin to achieve in the classroom and in society.
― Sylvia B. Rimm, When Gifted Students Underachieve
Those who have run any kind of business understand the importance of the WIFM (What’s in it for me?) question.
It’s a recognition that potential customers will be asking this question and will want an answer before they commit.
Children can be the toughest of customers. And you can be sure WIFM is constantly on their minds.
If we tell them they need to try harder or experiment with different approaches towards goals, they will want to know why.
Vague promises about better performance equalling better future are not always enough to motivate them.
However, the chance to win and have that taste of being the best at that moment in time is a great incentive.
They have a desire to improve, not to please us or to gain rewards in a far off future, but because they can truly see the possibility of WIFM.
Winning boosts their self-esteem but so can losing if they can see how much they’ve improved because they had something concrete to strive for.
Losing can also teach them empathy which will, in turn, give them a generosity of spirit.
Would you expect your child to learn how to walk without standing and moving their legs? Children learn through experience and that goes for learning how to be a gracious loser too.
Some have the concept that a situation where there are winners and losers isn’t fair. Yet competition is what keeps things fair. It keeps prices down, makes our leaders perform to the best of their abilities and is responsible for amazing creativity and innovation within companies.
I think some of the reason competition has gained such a bad reputation is because it is not always healthy.
We are bombarded with reality shows that centre on competition that often publicly humiliates the losers.
Anyone who has been to a child’s team sport game knows there is always that one (sometimes more) parent who gets carried away and screams abuse at the opposing team while hurling loud and misguided advice to the team they are supporting.
This is not healthy competition.
Healthy competition offers a supportive environment where empathy and encouragement are given to all.
Negative judgements are kept to a minimum while positive reinforcement is given generously.
Healthy competition provides a contest that individuals and teams have a fair chance of winning.
Losers may not get the prize, but they gain respect for trying their best.
EVERYONE’S A WINNER
By participating in healthy competition while young, all children are winners.
The rewards are bigger and better than a prize or trophy.
- Courage in the face of obstacles
- Creative thinking
- The pursuit of excellence
Wishing you a competitive and gleeful week, Tamuria