Updated: Oct 19
7 tips for supporting a competitive child? Now don't worry, we are not part of the politically correct police when it comes to sports days and a like, quite the opposite in fact.
Competition is a huge part of life and something children have to get used too. After all, sometimes they'll win and sometimes they'll lose, sometimes they come second and this doesn't just apply to kids either, but as they grow and encounter similar situations in everyday life as an adult.
This blog is for all those who constantly live in a world of competition, where they have to win, ALL THE TIME! When losing is not an option (or even coming 2nd) therefore putting themselves under enormous pressure, day in day out, to be the best. Sounds like your child? A child in your class? Let's see if Gemma's blog can support you and them to make some positive changes and if it doesn't sound like your child, have a read and learn something new! 😉
How do I know if my child is competitive?
Competitiveness comes in a variety of forms, but these are the most common characteristics.
They tend to be negatively critical about themselves.
They tell anyone who'll listen how brilliant they are at something.
They will often cheat to ensure they win.
They may be quite rude to their peers or competitors .
Your child is burning themselves out in trying to be the best.
They have mood swings, sulk, pout, shout etc when they do not win.
Why is my child so competitive?
Parenting does not come with a handbook, there are no hard and fast rules, but lets be really honest, our parenting influence moulds our children into who they are. Our beliefs, our actions and our language, all has a huge impact as they are growing up and of course, we do all this out of love, we want the best for our kids - who doesn't? In wanting the best, we want success and sometimes, that success, is blurred.
Success is such an important part of life these days and children are coerced into being driven towards the best schools, the best results and sports club to give them the best chance in life. Equally, our parenting has changed, our discipline has lessened and we protect our children from harm and failure because this is a way to show them that we care and love them.
The media also plays a huge role on influencing children, we see 'overnight success' stories, talent programmes that drive this obsession with winning and the fear of losing either ends with individuals pushing themselves to extreme limits or stopping from even trying.
At Grow Your Mindset, we often find that children and parents, don't know the difference between performance zone and learning zone. It is often the game changer that allows children to relax a little when they understand the function of each. Just have a look at the two images below, what differences do you see?
The Performance Zone is the competition, the chance to really show off your skills to be the best you can be. The test, the race, the job interview, the music exam or the public speaking event. We need to apply effort, it can be challenging in terms of time, audience, environment and our self belief needs to be high. Our mistakes are minimal and quite often we don't find out if we've won, lost, come second etc until the process has ended.
The Learning Zone is the opportunity to hone in on your skills, really focus on personal development and not think about anyone else. Again, self belief needs to be high, you may get feedback off a colleague, teacher or friend. You'll make mistakes, but use them to develop further. Effort is needed and the challenge will be high as this is something new, so the brain is making new neural connections and firing from all cylinders. The Learning Zone is actually where the most successful people spend their time.
Let's just clarify successful too. Successful isn't about winning all the time, but successful in terms of growth, in terms of development, the ability to bounce back when things go wrong or you don't win and in terms of happiness. School, should be a learning zone experience, but quite often children, parents and their teachers think that life is a performance ALL THE TIME and a fear of mistakes and feedback is formed, hence the development of all the traits mentioned above.
Is competitiveness bad for kids?
The jury is still out on this one, but personally I think competition is great for kids. I long for the good old days of winners and losers at sports day, but I also think it's imperative that we teach our children, as parents, as teachers first about how to manage competitiveness and when it's needed. They need to know when competition is healthy and when it is not. I also think it's about sharing the benefits of collaboration, working WITH others. Again, successful people collaborate ALL THE TIME, they don't keep it to themselves, they admit to not knowing everything and they find joy in working with others to solve problems and find the answers to things too. Those that can do both, can handle the failures and the losses that occur in later life, they bounce back and they are resilient.
How do you support a competitive child?
So I promised 7 tips, so here they are!
1) Talk: Talk about other positives other than winning - the friendships they make, the fun they'll have, the new things they'll learn and the team they are part of.
2) Ask: Ask your child to teach others their skill to build relationships and collaborations.
3) Reward and praise: Focus on the effort and action, not the outcome - have they worked hard, did they try their best? When things weren't working out did they show determination, stamina and resilience?
4) Love: Show them unconditional love when things don't go their way - show them how to lose gracefully - shaking hands, thanking competitors.
5) Try: Try new challenges and experiences, things they never thought that they would enjoy.
6) Talk: Talk about the negative outbursts calmly and discuss more appropriate strategies for dealing with those emotions. We all feel the the same emotions, how we respond can be the danger.
7) Understand: Don't push your child to be something they aren't. It's important they find their own way, but understand that you're there for them when they fall down and to guide them when they ask for help.
We're here to help
A lot of what we've discussed here is all about changing mindsets and funnily enough, that's what we do best! We love to support you in the best way we can and there are loads of things on our website that can be useful to help you with this - take a look at our Free Resources page for downloads and activities to try with you child to help give the messages and mental tools they need to cope with competition.
If you need further support Liz and I both provide 1:1 Mindset Motivation sessions, either face to face or over Zoom, which means it doesn't matter where you are based - we can help!
These have been a really successful and we have so many happy parents and children feeling much better about themselves and how they learn. This feedback shows just how powerful it can be!
Feel free to get in touch if you want to know more!
If you love a good read, why don't you check out our other blogs about mindsets.
If you would like to know more about Grow Your Mindset click here.