Encouraging Healthy Competition While Avoiding Pitfalls of Unhealthy Competition
Everyone has heard the phrase, “A little competition is good for the soul.” Is it true or isn’t it? The answer is yes – with a stipulation. Competition is good if it is healthy competition.
Pros and Cons of Competition
There are obvious downsides of competition. It can convince a non-competitive person to quit before the drama begins. Also, if competition is handled poorly, it can break up even the strongest of friendships or family ties.
On the other hand, there are definite perks of competition too. For example, competition can motivate someone to do their best. If the players of the NFL lacked competitive drive, how boring and uneventful would the games be? Would any of the players really be motivated to grow or improve if they weren’t experiencing a challenge? Although there may have been a few tense moments at the last family Scrabble game, what would happen to the game if no one cared about winning—if everyone watched television instead?
Parents don’t want their children to hate each other because of a card game or a basketball game gone awry. In fact, it is just the opposite. Therefore, parents need to encourage their children to engage in healthy competition. If everyone plays by the rules, the entire family will reap the rewards.
Work Together for Improvement
The kind of competition that keeps family get-togethers fun occurs when people are working together for improvement. For example, you might make a comment about a particular skill that your child possesses to encourage them to keep honing that skill. This is especially helpful when he or she is working hard but is feeling discouraged because of a lack of success. You might say, “Good job on that layup against your brother. Next time, try to jump a little higher.” You are not offering empty praise; at the same time, you are encouraging them to work harder and to feel confident in the competition.
Turn Potential Negatives into Positives
Another way to encourage healthy competition is by applauding your child’s efforts by turning potential negatives into positives. For example, during a game of Charades, you might say, “Claire, you are doing such a great job at making guesses,” rather than, “You’re way off.” Give them encouragement to keep moving forward. You also want to avoid bland praise such as, “Good kick,” especially if the kick wasn’t very good. Focus on specific things that they are doing well while encouraging them to improve in other areas. If your child does not feel that she is good, she won’t want to continue working hard. Conversely, if she is not aware of areas in which she can improve, then she will not see the need to work any harder.
Set Ground Rules and List Expectations
All parents want their children to get along during family activities. Therefore, you probably want to set some ground rules and list expectations before engaging in competition. For example, being so competitive that it makes your brother or sister cry is a bad thing. Mention that healthy competition includes building strong relationships and having fun together. Set an example by cheering on both teams when they score goals or get a point during a board game. Encourage good sportsmanship by having them high five or shake hands after the game is over. Discourage name calling, boos, and mockery.
Explain the Difference
Encourage dialogue about what constitutes healthy competition. When one of your children lets his role as a winner turn him into a boaster, ask him how he thinks that makes his siblings feel. Before the game begins, ask them to work on a certain skill that you know they need help with. In order to encourage camaraderie and relationship building, ask another child to help that sibling during the game (and vice versa).
Encourage One Another to do Their Best
Teamwork is an important part of healthy competition. When the participants are encouraging one another to do their best, then everyone will become excited about the game or activity. This is also a great way to foster strong relationships among siblings. When they can feel safe from harm or mockery during a game or activity, they will be more likely to want to play. This camaraderie will, hopefully, continue on into their teens and adult life, where they can enjoy the company of one another even when there are no big family events taking place.
Guest blogger Emily Birkett loves to play competitive games with her kids. Their favorite game right now is cornhole. In fact, the air is usually thick with cornhole beanbags most Saturday afternoons. Whether playing as a family or hosting a neighborhood cornhole tournament, Emily always makes sure the competition stays friendly.