Kids and Competition
Today the kids and I found a spare hour before I had to make dinner, and we did something we almost never do - sat together and colored. My six year old daughter loves to draw, color, and write stories, but my four year old son doesn't even like to sit still, let alone concentrate on staying within the lines. Today was different, though, and both kids worked very hard on their pictures. I also enjoyed working on a picture of my own, and very quickly the kids noticed that my thirty-two years of coloring experience clearly put me ahead of the curve.
"Mom, you're so good at coloring! You must be the best," was the first hint from my daughter that a peaceful afternoon was about to turn into a competition.
I assured her that she was also doing a fabulous job and I was very impressed. And then she hit me with the question that I've been hearing often from both of my children lately.
"So...would you say that I'm the best six-year-old at coloring?"
While it's important to let children know that they have wonderful strengths, it concerns me when my kids set their own value in comparison to others. Am I the smartest boy you know? Am I best at playing board games? Is my hair the longest? The questions can go on and on. Healthy competition is a great motivator for all of us, including our kids, but it is precisely the sort of thing that can quickly get out of hand and take over our children's thinking as well as determine their sense of worth.
What's a mom of an overly competitive kiddo to do? To start, be sure to help your children set reasonable expectations. The best soccer player in the world? Not likely. But it's great to point out to your children that every person has strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes we love to do the things that we aren't great at...and that's okay! I often tell my kids that there's likely another child out there better than them at the things they do best, just as there are likely scores of kids who don't do that one thing quite as well.
I also enjoy pointing out that my husband and I have different strengths and weaknesses and that's why we make a great parenting team. One of the best ways to play down competition is to foster this sense of cooperation.
Finally, take a look at how competitive you are in your own life. I certainly find myself announcing, "First to get ready for bath time wins!" more often than I should, and while turning mundane tasks into a competition gets the kids moving, it also turns our home into a playing field.
My kids understand that while I do color a pretty fantastic turtle, I'm not the best artist in the world and they likely won't be either. But the bottom line is that we enjoyed our time together coloring...and no one needed to take first place for us to have fun.
Do your kids love to compete? Share your own story in the comments section!