There is nothing that bothers me more than a parent who believes that their child can not engage in healthy competition for fear of losing. It’s sad really. Competition has become such a feared thing that parents will do what ever it takes to ensure that losing is a thing of the past.
Take for example the movement to reward every child with a trophy despite his or her actual level of skill/progress/contribution. As someone who played competitive sports for much of her childhood and well into her adult years, I find this to be rather appalling. When I was younger I played softball, volleyball, basketball, and I ran track. I also threw the shot put, participated in the long jump, the high jump, and in the triple jump. And while basketball volleyball and softball came somewhat naturally to me, distance running was not my forte and I was below average in jumping. The truth is that I lost some of the events in which I competed. Yet, I succeeded in others and never once did I or my mother demand that I be rewarded when my skills were not up to par. And what is wrong with that? What does that teach? I grew up knowing that in order to be rewarded for anything in life, you had to work hard, you had to show progress, and that often times there would be people who were far better at things than I. That is called character. That is called reality.
What is happening lately is that parents have decided that children are far too fragile to learn some of the most basic and necessary lessons in life. We have become a culture that celebrates mediocrity and provides children with a false sense of perfection. In essence we are creating what is rapidly becoming our own downfall. We are no longer raising individuals who were strong in character and possess the strong work ethic that once made this nation great. We are raising children who were becoming accustomed to everything being easy and to being rewarded for doing the minimal amount of work possible.
I have numerous trophies and medals that I won while participating in competitive sports. They are in my closet in a crate and serve as a reminder that if I work hard I can achieve great success. My daughter, who recently turned four, loves looking at them. One day she said to me, “Mommy, I want a trophy.” I responded, as most mothers would, by saying, “here, have one of mine.” Her response made me realize that my husband and I are doing a good job. She said, “No Mommy I want to win one of my own.”
This is the attitude that I wish to cultivate and this is the attitude that I wish more parents would pass down to their own children. This attitude. when combined with the understanding that winning isn’t everything, fosters a sense of pride and teaches children not only to be gracious winners but reflective losers as well. When we can teach children that hard work has its rewards and that no one wins all the time, then we can create children who work hard to accomplish their goals. In addition, helping children learn that they are better at some things then they are at others is a lesson that will give them confidence and strength to at least try.