If you were raised in a household that embraced competition, you probably learned the benefits of competing in a healthy way. However, if the constant pressure to succeed was always held over your head, then competition may have felt overwhelming. When children are taught about competition in a negative way, it can cause unnecessary anxiety and stress, but when the process is more balanced and positive, it provides kids with wonderful skills that can benefit them throughout their lifetime.
I’ve observed households that exude an “everyone’s a winner” attitude – where parents constantly shield their children from disappointment. I’ve also witnessed the opposite, where parents pressure their kids to be the very best, no matter the cost, only to see their children painfully discouraged when they don’t perform as expected. So, where’s the middle ground?
Finding the balance between providing encouragement and teaching grace through defeat builds character. Children are going to win and they’re also going to lose. Building them up by filling them with encouragement is the first step, followed by providing a realistic perspective of what they’re up against. While winning may boost their confidence, losing can also teach them about self-esteem, perseverance, and sportsmanship. We can’t shield them from the disappointment of losing, but we can help them understand the value of competition. Being mindful that they’re competing against themselves is also an important concept for them to understand. The best thing we can do, as parents, is to be their rock when they’re feeling overwhelmed, stand by their side when they need someone to lean on, and above all, always cheer them on along the way.
It’s crucial to be honest with kids about the concepts of winning gracefully and losing with dignity. By doing so, we’re teaching them how to experience both grace and humility. By treating the losses and wins as equally important, we provide them with a message of balance. If we’re consistent, our kids will grow up to become very resilient.
Let’s do our best not to give our children mixed messages, but instead provide a steady dose of support and pride, and always encourage them to perform at their personal best. If we stay focused on their performance instead of the numbers in the win/loss columns, we’re also motivating them to relax and have fun!