Why Competition is Healthy For Kids
What does the word ‘competition’ bring to mind? Is all competition a good thing? How do you distinguish between helpful competition and that which may harm your child?
Sport usually takes the form of competition, whether it’s a game of basketball, the school cross country championships or a wrestling tournament, competition is the activity of striving to win something by defeating or gaining supremacy over others.
However, competition is not just about structured games and events. In fact, it transpires any time an individual or team pitches their skills against one another.
Think back to great competitions you had as a kid – where did they take place?
Competition is a social process. How a child interacts with and interprets competition depends on the biological and social changes that they are going through.
At the age of 7 children start to learn organizational skills, such as the ability to resolve disputes and work towards collective goals.
The way they experience competition is entirely different to a 15-year-old with 8 more years of cognitive development.
Competition provides feedback that we can evaluate in terms of behavioral, psychological, social outcomes and can offer a rich learning environment for kids to express and develop physical skills and personal attributes.
Here are 5 reasons why competition is a good thing for your child:
- Competition embodies play.
Play is perhaps the greatest setting for learning social skills and integration.
- Competition is exciting.
Learning happens best when you’re excited about it. A competitive environment is perfect for developing your skills because it pushes you to always give your best.
- Competition fosters cooperation.
In an age of social media and growing individualism, time spent interacting and communicating with others is reducing. However, our ability to work with others to achieve a common goal is an essential skill to develop, not only in sport but in life. Competition allows children to learn patterns of social cooperation without exceeding critical limits of aggression.
- Competition develops emotional control.
With appropriate instruction, competition encourages children to reflect on their behavior under an emotionally intense situation and develop strong emotional intelligence, accordingly. Control and competence are correlated – when you feel in control of your emotions, your preference to work hard and take on new challenge to learn increases.
- Competition inspires creativity.
Time and again, to win the game, or gain the supremacy, requires thinking outside of the box. Competition urges children to challenge their status quo and try new things, which improves their creativity and problem solving skills.
Competition can deliver both positive and negative experiences (depending on the environment or situation) to your child, the question is: how can you help your child choose the best available options?
I recommend considering three important criteria:
- Great competition happens at, or just above, your child’s ability level.
We are at our best when in pursuit of a great goal or challenge, one that is just outside our reach and excites us to reach inside ourselves and grow. Competition that is too easy is boring and causes motivation to suffer, while a competitive challenge well outside our reach can be overwhelming.
- Great competition is focused.
It’s easy to think more is better when it comes to competition – more people, more teams, more opportunity. However, often the best competition is selective, involving an opponent or adversary that challenges you in a way that reveals your strengths, grows your weaknesses, and inspires you to bring your ‘A-game’ every time you turn up.
- Great competition emphasizes the process, not the result.
The competitive environment is critical. Choose environments that focus on self-reflection and mastery rather than winning, expert assistance rather than instruction, and inquisition rather than close-mindedness.
To sum up, competitive environments are a big part of the sporting experience, therefore, it’s important to think carefully about the type of competition your child participates in.