Does Competition help or Hurt Young People – Hurt

“Why, when ahh wuzzh a boy, I had to fight for everything! I had to work, by golly! Nothing was handed to me!”

“Don’t you come tellin’ me you walked away like a sissy and expect me to handle yer problem for ya! You gotta handle it like a man and stand up for yaself!”

“Relax, honey! It builds character!”

This pseudo-dichotomy very closely resembles a similar debate that has been had here and in on-line and in-the-flesh exchanges for generations – that of rigor versus nurture. My disposition is the same for this conversation as it is in that discussion.

It depends. Yes, that is terribly assertive and bold of me. Seriously, however – it really does depend. As is the case in every life-sustaining system that I can conceptualize (or recall), moderation is the answer. You have too much or too little of one thing and the same of another, and you change – the system has been replaced.

Okay, if I continue with that approach, readers are going to fall asleep at their terminals. My point is that it is your objective that shapes your plan. If you want your kid to be an aggressive, type A, every (man) for himself, go-getter who will one day lead his team or his army to victory, then competition will certainly need to be a significant component of the shaping of his psyche. And if that is all you want for him, or, more to the point, if that is all he wants for himself, then competition helps that particular young person.

On the other hand, if you are looking to nurture a more empathetic, objective, sensitive, and perhaps not so driven person, you’d want to steer clear of tasks and goals that have winners and losers. You’re inclined to focus on cooperative learning and living, and have a perspective that includes everyones opinions, needs, and strengths.

Clearly, especially in the formative years, going to the furthest ends of either extreme can be predicted to do much more harm than good. You don’t want a raise a person to be a boorish, arrogant, mean, aggressive, selfish demagogic tyrant. Nor, however, can one have a clear conscience by raising a placating, wishy-washy, unambitious, nervous, fearful, uncertain pushover.

So, while my assertion that “it depends” may, at first blush, put me in the latter camp, I think you can see that either extreme is hazardous, and the answer is in fact somewhere in the middle. SOME competition is good. It builds character, confidence, drive, and social skills. Too much does JUST THE OPPOSITE.

It is all about balance.