Competitive, to be or not to be!

*Yet another long post, looking for answers*

Frankly I dont know how to address this. This is something that has been gnawing at me for quite a while. A bit too much lately.

Namnam has been a girl who has never cared much about winning or staying ahead of her peers and I have been a mother, I admit, who has never really tried to change this attitude of hers. It has largely taken form because she has always been told to simply care more about giving her best and being satisfied with her own performance than worrying about performing better or worse than other children. Thus she has been in a very secure zone without cowing under any kind of performance pressure.

Yes there have been times when she has not been able to give her best, but she has never let that bother her much. In fact there have been quite a few times when her friends have surged past her, and she has genuinely felt happy for them. At such occassions, she has focused more on bettering herself the next time than whining about not scoring over her friends. And it makes me immensely happy when I see her so secure about herself. Because I have seen many children taking rejections in a very negative manner. In fact at times when Namnam has performed better than her peers, I have seen them bawling their lungs out, making a big hue and cry out of it making my child wonder if she had done anything wrong by faring well!

Now as her mother I too have not given ‘being one step ahead of others’ much importance. As long she gives her best in whatever she does and comes home completely happy and satisfied I haven’t felt the need to fret about who performed better or worse than her. Winner or not, I’m proud of her, have always been, will always be.

Two days ago, I met up with some friends and while talking, our discussion moved towards the common topic of letting our kids participate in events and competitions. And one of my friends just casually mentioned that she had stopped enrolling her daughter for competitions for the simple reason that she didn’t win any prizes in any of the events!

Which made me wonder if it was really so important to win! I mean, isn’t taking part in a competition or any event, in itself a reason enough to let your child participate?

I understand the whole grind of assembling things required to prepare your child for the event, not to forget the time and energy invested in it is not an easy task and it can be disappointing when the efforts do not yield desired results. But to look at the flip side, the participation could give your child more exposure, gain him/her more confidence in him/herself, teach him/her to face rejection and emerge stronger.

This is the reason why I avoid getting worked up over how well Namnam performs, be it in school or elsewhere. And when I see Namnam confident and secure about her own capabilities, I find it all the more easier to handle.

But….

(Sigh, if only there weren’t any ‘ifs and buts’, life would be so much more sorted!)

But, lately I have been sensing that this attitude of hers might be making her lax, making her lose the will to perform or even win for that matter.

Recently while driving back home after Namnam’s swimming class, R and I pointed out how she had to improve further on her kicks and get better at her speed, to which she immediately replied, “Oh but P is anyway always faster than me!”. This reaction of hers gave us a jolt, making us realize that she was resigning herself to a state of being lesser than her batch mate. Which made us wonder if she was showing signs of giving up on herself.

Now I have no qualms in accepting that P may be better than my child. I know that every child is different, his/her strengths are different, capabilities are different. So if P fares better than Namnam, then it is also true that Namnam is better than A, K or B. What worries me however is when I see her devaluing herself and this when she knows that she is capable of far more than her peer.

Today, like most of the days I am confused as a parent. My mind is swaying in dilemma. Does the answer to my concerns really lie in teaching my child to be more competitive? Be more aggressive? How do I get her to value herself? Do I now start telling her that winning IS important?

Yes. I think I need to do just that.

No I don’t want to instill in my child the obsession to win at any cost! No! But I also don’t want her to think any less of herself than her peers, which may eventually give way to low self esteem. So I need to tell her to change the way she thinks..

I need to tell her to stop believing that A, P, or K can fare better than her and start believing that she can.

I need to tell her not to give up on herself.

I need to tell her to learn to face dejection and then focus on succeeding the next time.

I need to tell her that every time she thinks low of herself, her actions and performances will be that much slower.
But each time she believes in her abilities, she will be driven to give her best that much more!

I need to tell her to change the way she thinks.

Look at me! On one side I am chiding a friend’s for her overtly competitive streak and on the other I am talking about instilling the very streak in my child.

Is the mind any more sound now?

No..

My mind is still full of conflicting thoughts, still incoherent…

Did anyone say parenting was easy?

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40 thoughts on “Competitive, to be or not to be!

  1. That is tough, Deeps. I have adopted the same strategy as you. And so far it seems to have worked.. but I can see this coming up soon:( I guess we will have to find ways of incentivising goals without it being a comparison with another child. You know, for instance, if you time her in swimming , and tell her that today she swam the lap in x mins, lets see if you ca better it next time. That might help herself, without competing with someone else. And might help her realise that she might be better than she actually thought. I don’t know, Deeps.. Just a thought. I have a feeling that this will come up soon for me as well…..

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    1. To time her laps in swimming is a good idea!You know Smits, our entire drive to the swimming class , I make her understand the very thing you said..that she has to just focus on how she is doing rather than watching what others are, or how fast others are catching up. In swimming she has the best technique and speed as per her coach, which is why it worries me to hear her resigned tone. She loves swimming and that shows when she swims but this attitude sometimes slows her down and rubs off on other areas as well..

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  2. Darn Darn Darn! there are loads of books which talk about pregnancy, and breast feeding and pooping and stuff..but hardly any help available for such issues eh? I can so understand what you are going through Deeps. R stays in a daycare for 8 hours a day (gasp!) and she seems to look at everything in life as a race including drinking milk..aap first yaa main first..and does get very upset if RD or I drink before her (we do *evil parents?*) anyways the point we try to make to her is, winning isnt everything in life..its perfect okay to lose..participating is more imp. She got upset that she got third prize in running this time. WE told her to at least she ran her best thats more important eh?

    In case of Namnam, what you could do is perhaps start by telling her how giving your best in life is more important than just giving in.

    Tell her from own examples like how RM masi always wanted to eat more aloo parathas than her father, but ended up losing to him all the time. One day, RM masi decided in her heart, that even if she loses to him, she will try her best to beat him in eating parathas. And that evening, RM masi’s mother ended up making 12 parathas. RM Masi’s appa ate 5, and RM Masi ate 7 (she didnt stop at 6 because she had won over her Appa, she wanted to give her best) Errr…poor RM masi’s mother had her santoshi mata vrat (well just incase Namnam gets worried about that!) So its all about giving your best and not about winning..

    On a serious note, its work in progress da, you cant get kids to think like this over night..do its slowly and surely and I am sure Namnam will turn out just perfect πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you so much RM for the sound advice and that wonderful example! Gosh you seem to be so sorted as a mom!
      I will surely make her read what you said πŸ™‚
      “In case of Namnam, what you could do is perhaps start by telling her how giving your best in life is more important than just giving in.” This is exactly what I tell her, RM, have been telling her always, but somehow I feel she seems to be getting a bit too casual about her own abilities. Guess its just a phase and all I need to do is channel her mindset in the right direction πŸ™‚

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  3. In most cases we have always asked our son if he wants to participate in a competition in his school or not… mostly he does not take part… unless its story telling or maybe poetry recitation or maybe running… he hates dancing…

    I guess in someways he himself also decides what he feels like winning and where he likes competing… in someways maybe we feel compelled to ask him to learn things.. he doesnt want to go to learn swimming… inspite of him loving water and loving being a shallow pool.

    He doesn’t get ready to learn a cycle… guess some sort of fear…

    whilst I want him to learn a few things and unless we push him I guess its not going to come about… up until now we always let him do what he felt like… we always asked him if he wants to take part and if the answer was no, it was that… however maybe that has also made him a bit stubborn now… so perhaps maybe at some point in the beginning if we actually would have made him participate in everything just like all others maybe he would have been a little more adaptable and more accomodating and maybe overcome his fears… dunno…

    I guess there can never be a perfect route to take for us parents eh… we all learn on the job…sigh.. and its tough

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    1. You’re Hitchy, parenting is all about learning on the way!
      Oh cycling is another area which Namnam is yet to get a grip of. She still rides with supporter wheels :). Guess she will pick it up when she is ready

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      1. Deeps, Hitchy, I thought mine was the only one who hadn’t learnt to cycle:) This time when we moved, we’ve bought her a cycle without the supporting wheels. She has started to the get the hang of it, but still will only even try it when she wants too, and I don’t want to push her, you know, incase she starts hating it.

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  4. Each child is different and there can be no specific manual for them.. You take some basics, and make things up as go along..

    Very Very tough job..

    Well you can try competing her against herself maybe.. She doesn’t necessarily have to beat P. She can swim a lap in x seconds and you can try to have practive and strive for x-y seconds. Whether she beats P or not doesn’t matter, as long she keeps improving.

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    1. To advice her to compete against herself is a good suggestion, something that my husband and I have given her at times. I will have to drill it into her a bit more strongly now I think πŸ™‚

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  5. sigh…I need answers too. Namnu seems to be just like Sammy πŸ™„ The boy is the most contented person I have ever seen in my life. He is least bothered about how fast the entire world is whizzing past him. We are happy that he is a stress free kid but like you said I wonder if this is going to bounce back on us. πŸ˜₯

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    1. I am happy too that Namnu doesnt get worked up at all and chooses to keep her cool. But I fear it may just make her even more lax. I hope I am wrong.. πŸ™‚

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      1. You know, I think its better that they are content rather than crazily competitive. I’ve seen children like that in India, and it worried me that they just could not handle not being the best in everything. In that sense, I am happy that Kunju is content, but yes, I hope she doesn’t stay so content that the world passes her by…

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        1. Oh I too have come across children who are obsessive about winning, Smits, and it worries me to think of the dire consequence such obsessions might give way to if and when those kids are faced with rejection. Oh yes, in that sense I am happy that Namnam is content, but of course I’d rather she doesn’t get too complacent also πŸ™‚

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  6. Glad to see that I am not the only mother who has similar worries. πŸ™‚
    It indeed pains to see the child withdrawing herself for no valid or genuine reasons.
    We are struggling with the same problem with the elder one. The only improvement we saw in her was after Lil Love was in. The competition between siblings has made some change in Anu, but there’s a long way to go.

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  7. Ah! The parenting dilemmas we face! Our philosophy is also the same… focus on yourself and do better than before. But I wonder, if this is a laid back approach. Have seen some parents who push their kids to excel in every field, all the time and the kids do well with that push too. Is this push needed? For it may burn out the kid too soon. Or it is better for the child to learn and grow at his/her own pace…

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    1. Dilemma! This is exactly what I am going through too! Cant seem to decide on the right approach to take..
      Absolutely agree with you, Shilpa, when you say that too much of pushing can adversely affect a child. And I certainly dont want to tread that route for Namnam πŸ™‚

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  8. I think even though parents don’t teach kids to compete, everything/everyone else does… but the whole idea of competition and excellence and doing better is Happiness/contentment/peace? Right? If we can derive that from being ourselves – then we have power over our own happiness. Competing with oneself is a good idea but I too don’t believe in pushing too much… maybe a little nudge now and then if there is procrastination.

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    1. You’re so right, IHM! Sometimes, more than the parents, its the pressure from friends, peers and ‘well-wishers’ that affects a child’s confidence. Also pushing a child too much can counter-react. Like you said, a little nudge when the child slackens can give him/her the needed motivation to do well..

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  9. Listen. Chill. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You would want the best for your child, like any mother does. Why don’t you put it this way?
    Don’t compare her to any other child? Tell her instead that she is capable of doing more (as compared to what she did earlier, not as compared to what X or Y did) and that you sense more potential in her, so why not try the next time with some more effort/practice (insert whatever word you prefer)?

    There is a difference between obsessing with competing with others, and pushing yourself to do better since you know this is not the best yet that you have given. Drawing the fine line is difficult but it is possible. Maybe she is going at 60% rate…. and getting complacent about it. She definitely can give 80-90%. Little by little you can draw her out of it.

    You’ll do fine πŸ™‚ Be patient.

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    1. That is a sound advice, Ash. I am not at all in favour of comparing not just my child but any child to another. I would much rather my child draws comparison from her own self and look at bettering herself.

      πŸ™‚

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  10. Sigh! Parenting is NOT easy. I conclude this on the basis of so many examples I see around me, and the ones I read about on various blogs.

    About your question – Wouldn’t it be a good idea to teach Namnam to keep bettering herself at whatever she does, instead of competing against her peers? You could tell her that she should constantly keep working on bettering her skills, constantly improve herself, that her next should be better than her last?

    I wouldn’t want to instill a ferocious competitive streak in my child as well. However, I think it is essential that you teach the child not to give up on oneself, and to look inward rather than to his/her peers as far as competition is concerned. Of course, I know I sound very zen and all, but it would be far more difficult to implement this in reality.

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    1. What you say makes sense TG. I’d rather tell Namnam to focus more on bettering herself than get obsessed about competing against her peers.

      Thank you, dearie πŸ™‚

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  11. Each child is so different from the other that you cannot apply the same thoughts to all of them.
    I don’t believe in pushing your child into a competitive mode but I think it is important to participate. It builds confidence when the child faces an audience or has goals to achieve but the goals should not pitch her necessarily against other kids.
    IT is a tough tough job.

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  12. This is from another perspective πŸ™‚ I had the same issues, when the kids were growing up, and neither of them were very interested; the little one a bit more, with a bit of ‘push’, never shove πŸ˜€
    However in the increasingly, almost obsessive competitive spirit that seems to be the norm of the day, the kids forget to enjoy themselves. Yes, there is a lot of pressure, mostly from the kids whose parents really push them hard, and ingrain in their souls, that they have to be the best. This, in turn affects the other kids.
    What I’d love to see happen is participation and enjoyment. But most times, no matter how hard I try, it’s the response that they do not want to because there’s a better performer that keeps coming back to me. Sigh. 😦
    I most certainly think that parenting has to be the toughest job EVER, this century. πŸ™‚

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    1. “Yes, there is a lot of pressure, mostly from the kids whose parents really push them hard, and ingrain in their souls, that they have to be the best. This, in turn affects the other kids.” – Oh yes Ushus, you’re so right!. I have seen overtly competitive kids go to fierce lengths of grabbing and shoving other kids aside just so they could stay ahead, be on top. I feel really bad to see the frustration on the faces of kids who get overtaken purely by such unfair means.

      I’d want Namnam too to take up things mainly with participation and enjoyment in mind without feeling any unjust pressure of winning.

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  13. Ok, girl. Need your help in planning a trip to Kerala. We are considering one, for about 5 days. Would love to see Kerala through the eyes of a local. Do let me know if there’s anything you think I should do, or I would like. Any favourites that you would recommend I do/visit/see/hear/eat? Do mail me in detail. Thanks in advance! πŸ™‚

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    1. Mailing you in a bit, TG! Although I am not sure how much of a help I can be for its been years since I visited Kerala myself. I hope to go there soon πŸ™‚

      Let me mail you..

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  14. I think it is all about balancing it right? I mean no competition with others but self, not to reach to 10/10 but aim for 9? Cause no one’s perfect and there is always room for improvement. Cause it is us who should be happy with what we are and we will make out of ourselves doing something / not doing something…

    Am I making any sense? I don’t know but parenting surely was never a cake walk 😦

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    1. This makes me think, Deeps, how did we grow up? What did our mothers do? They didn’t have a blog group to even brainstorm and still they managed well, sigh!!! I’m sure they did have their own concerns, but now a days these issues crop more prominently in us parents’ heads… we think a lot and munch on thoughts a lot and give ways to various ideas and another set of thoughts sprout from there… hai na?

      Hugs!

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