I love to win! Don’t you? I mean, I’m okay with not winning if I didn’t put the work required into it. For instance, I have no problem with not winning in a game of chance… like a raffle or bingo or the such. But if I had to plan a strategy or meet criteria, then I want to win. And I am disappointed if I don’t. I have even gone so far as to do an after action report, a term I borrowed from my husband’s years in the Army. After action reports are begun immediately following the exercise (competition), and they involve identifying strong factors, weak factors, and causes for loss. Then I plan a future action to prevent those things that caused loss. I like to ponder on the wound while it’s fresh! (That’s because I don’t want that wound again.)
Knowing this about me, it should come as no big surprise that I love it when my own kids and my students win. I am fresh off a trip to regional speech competition where five of my nine students competing are headed to state competition (and two of the remaining number are alternates). It felt tremendous to know that all the hard work we did paid off! Two weeks ago, I took advantage of the spring break entry to brag on my daughter’s win of a coveted PR award. So, my love of winning extends to those in whom I am invested.
I know that I am not alone in this. I think we all love winning. I know kids do. Otherwise, they wouldn’t spend recesses playing games in which there can be only one winner… well, at least they do until adults interfere and make them “play nicely.”
The desire to win is natural and can be used to your advantage to help train your child in the way he/she should go. Done correctly, it is a valuable tool. For instance, racing your meandering child to the car gets you on the road quicker. Seeing who can brush her teeth longer assures that your child will at least brush a little. And I have more than once sent home thirty multiplication facts problems and instructed the parent to say, “I bet I can make dinner before you can finish these problems correctly!”
It is important to keep the word “healthy” in front of the word “competition.” It is not healthy for the child to always win. Please don’t neglect teaching your child the feel of losing and how to react. It will save him tons of embarrassment the first time he loses a race with a classmate at school and then clears a space and pitches a fit.
One can tell if the desire to win has become unhealthy: if there’s a fit involved, if there’s any denigrating of the opposition, or if the joy of the activity is gone.
Similarly, one can tell if his child’s reaction to loss has become unhealthy: if there’s avoidance of competitive activity, if there’s an abundance of analysis and excuse-making, or if there’s no drive to even have a “try, try again” experience.
But, if your child makes a plan to do better, recognizes why she lost and how to avoid that happening again, and celebrates with the winners, you have truly won. You’ve got one great kid! - Michelle