Our world is full of competitions; some of them are for adults, and some of them are for children. But all of them beg the question…”to compete or not to compete?”
Over the years I have witnessed or run many competitions – sports events, music events, math olympiads, science olympiads, national geographic bees, spelling bees, quiz bowl, writing contests…the list goes on and on. There has always been niggling doubt in the back of my mind…are these competitions a good idea or a bad idea? What are the benefits? What are the drawbacks? Is competition healthy or unhealthy for children in particular? How can we use competition as a growing tool for children (and adults)?
It is no secret that gifted children can often be very competitive. Some of them seem intrinsically competitive; others may be absorbing a competitive spirit from a treasured adult or adults, or from the pervasive competitive spirit they witness in the media. Competition is ubiquitous. If this is the case, then how can we help our kids handle both winning and losing, self-aggrandizement or self-doubt, both gracefully and with perspective?
Here are some things I’ve learned over the years:
Over the years I have also watched how adults handle children’s competitions, and I’ve seen great examples of adult support and not-so-great examples of adult support. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Wherever you stand on the idea of competition…to compete or not to compete…I hope you will consider these suggestions to make competition more meaningful for young people. In the process, you may sort out some of your feelings about competition, too.
Jackie Drummer, Past President and Current Board Advisor
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