Friendly Competition for Kids
Summer is upon us and with it comes the opportunity to head outdoors and play ─ whether it’s simple family fun or participation in group sports or activities. While competition is common and to be expected, it is important to remember that continued fun relies on being a good sport. It also relies on encouraging good sportsmanship in others.
You may be tempted to dwell on the scoreboard, but before you do, let’s review the difference between healthy and unhealthy competition ─ as well as how you can encourage the former.
What’s the Difference?
Competition is natural, but sometimes seemingly inconsequential comments can be interpreted in meaningful ways ─ both good and bad. Think about what words you use before, during and after a big game. Then ask yourself, “What kind of competition am I encouraging?”
If you congratulate your children and others on doing their best, whatever their best may be, you are encouraging healthy competition. This encouragement focuses on achievements and highlights the fun of the game. Teamwork requires that we work together, whether that team is on the field or in the home.
If, however, your comments focus on winning and you find yourself critiquing rather than building confidence, you are encouraging unhealthy competition. In order to truly succeed, a passion for the sport must be developed. When we are overly critical and focus on the negative, rather than the positive, we aren’t fostering passion but resistance. And when the fun of the game is excluded, interest quickly fades and friendly competition for kids isn’t happening.
Common Mistakes that Lead to Unhealthy Competition
It can be frustrating to sit on the sidelines and watch your child not perform at his or her best. This may be based on standards they’ve set, or standards set by you.
In truth, even the best of parents have moments of weakness. They unintentionally do and say things that encourage unhealthy competition. If you’ve ever said or done the following, don’t worry. Remember, acknowledging common fallacies is critical to correcting them in the future. Here are a few don’ts to consider:
Don’t Make Everything a Competition
Even if you don’t intentionally turn everything into a competition, there are times that all of us do–whether we realize it or not. Maybe it’s a race to see who can pick up their room the fastest or the first to get dressed, but what you may pass off as motivational can quickly escalate. The youngest often comes in last and the oldest often begins to equate self-worth with winning.
While rewards are good, focus on the deed not the time of completion. Remember, its quality not quantity. Or, in competition related terms, it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. Focus on skill development and resist the urge to focus on numbers alone.
Don’t Set a Bad Example: Teach Friendly Competition for Kids
As a parent, setting a good example isn’t always easy. After all, we are all human. Don’t sit in the bleachers at every game and hurl insults at others ─ including the other team, their coaches and the umps. Not only does this raise your own stress levels, it also sends the signal to your children that it’s acceptable to yell and insult others when things don’t go your way. If you want them to have fun, you must relax and have fun yourself.
Setting a good example does not end when you leave the field of play; your words before and after the game matter as well. Don’t focus on the score, but celebrate performance and effort. Focus on the positive. This does not encourage weakness, but leads to greater confidence and allows your child to focus on the game and not on your actions or approval. It’s not about you; it’s about them. So set a good example.
Don’t Make Comparisons
It can be tempting to compare your children to yourself, their peers, or to one another, but avoid the temptation. You may think that comparing your child to someone else you will help motivate them to perform better, but all it does is foster doubt and uncertainty. As parents, we know our kids are individuals and we love the differences that make them who they are.
Don’t push conformity and crush their unique spirit through comparisons. Instead, allow them to grow, learn and develop their skills in their own way and at their own pace. This tells them that you love them just as they are, not more or less than another person.
At the end of the day, healthy competition relies on a positive attitude. Focus on your child rather than the scoreboard and help them be the best they can be. This encouragement will translate to improved confidence and foster independence on and off the field. Friendly competition for kids leads to healthy kids.
Arlene VanRoekel works for a cornhole supplier. Her job is to educate people about the awesomeness of the sport. Arlene usually shares her cornhole story via TV, radio, and blogging. While she loves the game, she is more interested in encouraging people to play in a healthy, safe way.
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