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When done right, competition can help your children learn skills they’ll use throughout their lives.

The 18th UCMAS Online National Abacus and Mental Arithmetic Challenge will be held on May 21, 2021. As children around the country gear up for this phenomenal event, we take a look at some of the reasons competition is good for children.

To some parents, “competition” is a stressful word. Not only does it place too much pressure on kids to be their best, they argue, but it can also cause unnecessary stress and leave children feeling disappointed if they don’t measure up. Many well-meaning moms and dads either declare everyone a winner or avoid competitive situations altogether to shield kids from disappointment.

Teaches Children Grit and Goal Setting

Competition helps kids learn that it is not always the best or the brightest who are successful, but rather those that work hard and stick with it. Children who engage in competition earn critical social skills through interacting with other children, while also learning the value of hard work and developing self-esteem and self-efficacy.

Losing a toughly contested game or falling short of winning the top prize isn’t easy for anyone, but we have the power to help our kids think positively about competition. For starters, it helps to define accomplishment not just as winning the activity, but as setting a goal for something they put their minds to and accomplish. Support your kids through their challenges and regularly reinforce the message that it’s okay to lose as long as they are putting forth effort and learning from the experience.

By suppressing competition, we are failing to prepare the next generation for the realities of the world. The result may well be that we’re creating a childhood culture of mediocrity and risk aversion-a somewhat inadequate preparation for our competitive world.

Motivates Children to Do Their Best

Another key advantage of competition is that it gives children a reason to motivate themselves. Can we expect a child to work hard and give their all if there is no recognition or reward for their effort? Why should they dive to save a goal in a soccer game if the score doesn’t matter? Why should they even try to score a goal? In this sense, competition also makes an activity relevant to children and motivates them to  give  more than they otherwise would. It drives them to constantly try to improve and advance. When students are intrinsically motivated, they exhibit more positive behaviours, such as creativity and persistence, and develop higher levels of self-esteem.

Teaches Team Work

There are social benefits that come from competition too – especially those which require children to work in teams. In a team, people are required to work with individuals with unique knowledge and ability to help achieve a common goal. As adults, we are required to work with all sorts of people in the workplace and our ability to do so is assumed. Engaging in competition and working in teams nurtures this behaviour.

Children who can work cooperatively with their peers show better subsequent performance and greater problem-solving skills than those who work alone. Collaboration improves communication, social skills, and the ability to work with others. Competition teaches children teamwork, and equips them with the tools they need to develop relationships, form partnerships and work together to solve problems.

Eliminates the Fear of Losing

Losing or defeat-both often mistaken for failure-is an important life lesson. Fear of losing can be crippling. It can create individuals who avoid taking risks or embracing new and challenging situations. This behaviour is unhealthy, especially in a society like ours, which is founded on risk-taking and competition.

Competition exposes children to the simple truth that they can’t always win.

It ensures that they can put any fear of losing into perspective. Importantly, competition teaches a child that risks are sometimes worth taking. It is much easier to help a child learn these lessons when the stakes are smaller than it is to change an adult’s life-long habit of avoiding risks for fear of losing.

High tolerance for failure is important for the development of a resilient and confident individual.

It ensures that they can put any fear of losing into perspective. Importantly, competition teaches a child that risks are sometimes worth taking. It is much easier to help a child learn these lessons when the stakes are smaller than it is to change an adult’s life-long habit of avoiding risks for fear of losing.

A teacher or parent should accept that failure and error-making are a necessary, intrinsic, and welcomed part of the learning process. Healthy competition in childhood encourages risk-taking and persistence-qualities that are vital for success in the real world.

We live in a competitive world. There is competition in finding a job, buying a house, and applying for university. Even our political system is built upon the principles of competition. In such a competitive world, how are you supposed to come to terms with losing as an adult if you have been sheltered from it as a child? How are you supposed to learn to be gracious in victory or defeat if you have never experienced either?

A childhood devoid of competition is damaging because it instills a sense of entitlement-that a ‘win’ is deserved merely for participating, and not for the quality of the performance.

Michael Jordan summed it up perfectly in his Nike advertisement: ‘I have failed over and over and over again in my life-and that is why I succeed.’ The competition taught him persistence, perseverance, and resilience. By denying our children the benefits of competition, we are denying them this same opportunity.

By: Nusrat Ali