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Are Competitive Games Helpful or Harmful for Children?

by Stephanie Dube Dwilson

With the proper oversight, competitive sports are generally considered helpful to children. For your child to gain the greatest benefits from participating in sports, however, you need to be aware of the potential pitfalls of competitive sports. None of the drawbacks to participation are insurmountable, and, as an active and involved parent, you should be able to navigate around them with ease.

Benefits

Participating in sports provides both concrete and abstract benefits. Children who participate in sports develop self-discipline, learn to get along with others and the importance of working together, learn to control their emotions and take pride in their accomplishments. Children who participate in sports do better in school than their peers who do not participate in extracurricular activities. Participating in sports with supportive parents and coaches helps a child learn to deal with stress in a positive way.

Drawbacks

A parent who puts too much pressure on a child's performance or a coach who yells excessively or treats the players badly can make competitive sports a negative situation for a child. The child may become physically ill before a competition or lose all enjoyment for a sport he previously loved if his parents or coaches create a stressful environment. Once the child has a negative experience, he may have trouble dealing with stressful situations throughout his life.

Considerations

Participating in sports helps children learn to deal with both internal pressure, which is self-inflicted, and external pressure, which comes from coaches, parents and teammates. These are important skills to have, but the process of developing them can be stressful for both you and your child. To help your child stick with the sport during this time, be realistic with your expectations and help your child manage his expectations as well. Maintaining a realistic mindset helps prevent your child from becoming frustrated. It is also best to stick with coaches who place an emphasis on building skills rather than winning at all costs.

Expert Advice

Dealing with stress associated with competition is the biggest obstacle facing young competitors. As a parent, you can help your child learn to manage stress by encouraging him to practice deep breathing and muscle relaxation before a competition, stressing the importance of realistic expectations, and ensuring that he participates in other fun, noncompetitive activities in his free time.

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