Healthy Competition Character – Help

Healthy competition can be beneficial to young people. Rather than focusing on the typical “win at all costs” ideology, healthy competition focuses on teamwork, effort, and improvement.  Children learn that their actions have an impact on the outcome of the team.  By focusing on their effort, rather than the overall outcome, it builds their self-esteem more than telling them they’re a “winner” even if they don’t try.  The same goes for their improvement…they learn that by working hard, they can achieve their goals, no matter how small or large.  The key is to set realistic goals.  For example, instead of saying “I want to be undefeated”, say “I’d like everyone to try and get on base this season” and as the participants reach their goals, set another slightly more difficult goal…say “Great job!  Do you think you can get on base twice in a game?”  If they don’t make it, still acknowledge their effort “You never made it on base twice, but you made it on base in 7 games!  And the last time, you made it to third!”  Acknowledging their improvement will do more for their self-esteem than telling them they did a great job when they didn’t even try.

This is in direct contrast to the “everyone is a winner” concept that many children’s programs have adopted.  Those programs are aimed at not harming our children’s self-esteem.  In reality, they are teaching our children that they will win, no matter how great or little effort they put forth.  The focus is on learning skills, but all participants are “winners” no matter what.  In these programs, our children never learn how to lose gracefully, or win gracefully for that matter.  As they age, and programs move from the “everyone wins” mantra to the “winner takes all” mindset, many of these kids are not prepared mentally and act out verbally by taunting the opponents (and sometimes their less-talented teammates).  Parents often make this even worse by exhibiting bad sportsmanship themselves.

If children are taught at a young age how to compete in a healthy way, it will help them throughout their entire life.  Parents can emphasize effort rather than grades.  By doing so, they help their child understand that it is not the outcome, but the effort that matters. That way, a child that has difficulties in a particular subject will feel less anxiety if they know that they will be praised for doing their best.   In the workplace, you often have to work cooperatively with coworkers, managers have to effectively motivate employees, even spouses need to communicate effectively to make a marriage work.  These skills are learned as children from coaches, parents, and teachers…the people who facilitate healthy competition. People like to say that “competition builds character” and that’s not true….it’s how you are taught to handle competition that builds character.