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Is competition amongst children healthy?

Posted in: Blog | June 24, 2018

None of us likes to lose. It can make us feel; sad,unhappy, miserable, dent our self-confidence, feel angry and a failure. Children feel these things even more intensely than adults. However, we are all, at some stage in our lives, going to lose at a competition, or fail at a venture. In order to move forward positively, we need to recognise what we need to do to improve our performance.U,S. Psychologist Sam Weinman says, ‘If we shelter them (children) from negative outcomes when they’re young, they will be ill-prepared to face any negative outcomes when they are adults.’

At Tiny Toes, we encourage our children to learn from losing a game, not being first to complete an activity, be best at something, even from not getting a sticker! So what is it we aim to teach them, when they are faced with, what to some of them can be, a devastating experience? 

Anne Steinhoff of The Novak Djokovic Foundation, explains that winning a game, being ‘best’ at something, or coming first, makes children feel good about themselves, makes them feel proud and builds self-confidence, so they are motivated to attempt even more challenges. Games are an opportunity for children to learn that teamwork, commitment and following the rules can make them feel good about themselves and their peers.

So how do we teach them how to achieve something positive from losing? Firstly, we respect their feelings. Losing a game, not coming first, or not being best at something can have a fairly traumatic effect on the self-esteem of small children. We never be-little their feelings by, for example, telling them, ‘It’s only a game,’ or not to be silly. These phrases only serve to reinforce a child’s belief they are wrong to feel bad about losing. We comfort them, explain why they didn’t come first, and talk about the positives they can build on to improve next time. If children are given scaffolding to support future attempts, they will feel much more confident about ‘having another go.’ We build self-esteem by pointing out what they have achieved, for example, ‘ Well done ?! I was so proud of you when you pointed out the card ?? had missed!’ These kind of comments impact positively on all of the children.

Finally, we play lots of games where the children are all given the chance to win. Not by allowing cheating, or by ‘letting’ them win. Children are very aware of when they haven’t achieved something by themselves. Quite simply, we look for the positives in everything they achieve, and help them feel secure in their ability to keep on trying.