Views on competition can get as heated as the competition itself. While some may view it as essential for building a child's character and preparing him for adult responsibilities, others think that it can hurt a child's growing sense of self-esteem and promote the wrong values. Most experts agree somewhere in the middle. If your child shows hesitation to compete but seems to want to get more engaged, it may be worth encouraging him to develop an appreciation for healthy competition.
Play family games together. N.C. State University recommends starting with simple games of chance and games of strategy, such as Old Maid, Go Fish, Bingo, Chess or Backgammon. This gives you the opportunity to provide a positive atmosphere for competition and to be a role model for a healthy competitive attitude.
Find their motivation. Not all children are motivated to win. Ohio State University notes that the most common reasons that children give for enjoying competition are wanting to have fun, learning and improving skills, the feeling of excitement, the challenge of it, the team spirit they experience and the exercise. Find out what motivates your child and tap into those feelings. When the game or activity is over, ask questions like "Was it fun?" or "Did you learn anything?"
Enter them in youth sports. A positive experience with team competition can motivate children to do more. Choose a sport that your child likes playing at home or has interest in learning more about, and then find a team through your church, your child's school or a community organization. Make sure you talk with your child regularly about his experience to ensure that it is a positive experience that encourages healthy competition, and intervene as necessary.
Teach them not to focus on the win. When children are focused too much on winning or losing, they can often feel rejected or worthless when they lose. Yet winning can be empty. Dr. Tom Brunner notes that if you want to win, you can always play against a less qualified opponent, such as a younger child. Instead, Dr. Brunner suggests teaching kids to focus on competition with themselves through personal development, which gives their win more meaning. Help them to set goals, and encourage them to see other good players as healthy competition. Use professional sports players as models to make your point.
Build their confidence. Some children are hesitant to compete because they do not feel confident in their ability. Dr. Patrick Cohn encourages parents to talk openly with their children about their fears and concerns to help them overcome them. N.C. State University recommends that parents offering coaching and encouragement with statements like "Try again" and "You are a sharp shooter." Note what your child is doing well, and encourage him to keep trying. His confidence will improve as he sees his ability to succeed through hard work and determination.
- Dr. Tom Brunner: Teach Your Child to be Competitive to Ready Them for the Arena of Life
- Texas Amateur Hockey Association: How to Help Your Child be More Competitive
- North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service North Carolina State University: Children Competition
- Parents.com: Why Kids are Competitive
- The Ohio State University Extension: Play TAG with Your Kids: Tips to Ensure Positive Competitive Experiences
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