A healthy dose of competition

Tomorrow is the children’s school sports day and when I asked them what races they were in and if they were going to win. They both said no!!! This caught me in my tracks slightly and it got me thinking, how and when should you, as a parent encourage competition?

When Bear Cub 1 ran her first sports day, she floated down the track like a butterfly, smiling at all the crowd. You know the scene in Friends when Rachel and Phoebe go running. I asked her if she wanted to win and she looked at me as if I was talking a foreign language.

I said to Bear Cub 2 “Now when you’re running you have to run so fast you are the first over the line,”

“Well mum, maybe.”

“Why only maybe sweetheart? Just run super hero fast and be the first over the line”

“It’s ok, I don’t have to, we all get a medal and then they spray us with the hose”

I do love the school’s all inclusive policy and I can appreciate how, particularly at 5 years old how the taunting in the classroom could get a little out of hand with who did / didn’t win, but when is it good time to introduce that desire to win? You want them to stay sweet and innocent but also strive to achieve more.

Hubby is highly competitive, he has spent a lot of his life on the rugby pitch and has 5 siblings. His friends often comment “I bet your brother could do it” if they want him to do something (usually foolish). I on the other hand prefer everyone to play by the rules and have fun. So I guess if the kids fall somewhere in the middle they’ve got a fighting chance.

Competition between the Bear Cubs has definitely taken root, but is yet to really surface in the wider world for them. We often use the old faithful “Bet you can’t go and get ……. by the time I count to 10,” or “Last one up the stairs smells like cabbage.” If we are doing an activity with one, the other always likes to makes sure we know they can do it as well, a handstand, a sum, reading. But when I ask Bear Cub 2 if he scored a goal in football he often says something like, “no the other team were running faster so I let them score.”

When I googled competition the following definition came up – “The activity or condition of striving to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others”

This seems somewhat strong worded for little kids, but it is a principle that is true in everyday life and one that should be instilled at some point. I think it is healthy to have some level of competition whether it be in the football team, a dance recital or a job interview.

Life is full of ups and downs and learning how to deal with them is a key skill in a child’s development – at this level it may just be winning the handwriting competition at the Eisteddfod, but one day this may mean a big promotion. Knowing that hard work and challenging yourself to get better will pay off .

There will come a point where that sense of competition will click for them, but for now I’ll let them live in their happy little bubble of everyone is a winner, it seems a nice place to be – because that’s what mums do!

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