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?

Green Blazer, Blue Blazer..

Oh no, this is not some tongue-twister game that I’m starting with you! You can breath easy! 🙂

This, in fact, is the base of a flow of thoughts that was set in motion after a discussion with a friend whose children studied in one of the schools here.

The exam season is going on in most of the schools here, or at least the Indian schools here and most of the children, I know have their noses buried deep in their course books. And parents, or at least some of them, have their eyes, noses, heads, expectations firmly fixed on their kids to ensure that they prepare their subjects well enough to score high passing marks.

Now there are plenty of parents I come across here who go through their own hyper-ventilating sessions every time the examination-fever is in the air. They bring about all kinds of embargo into their lives. ‘No watching television’. ‘No socializing’. ‘No phone calls’. ‘No internet’. ‘No Facebook’ ‘No playing, dancing, singing, nothing!’ Only stress and mounting pressure to perform.

And the embargo is not just restricted to the kids but the parents too, mind you!

Anyway this post is not about those parents and their parenting styles. They are a fodder for another day another post.

This post is rather aimed at this particular approach that one of the schools here has adopted, apparently, to encourage the students to perform better.

I learnt from a friend recently that the students of the school, who otherwise have green blazers as their uniform, are rewarded blue blazers if they manage to score top grades for three consecutive years. Furthermore they get to wear a blue-tie as well if the top grades are scored for the fourth straight time.

And this friend of mine was distressing about how her daughter was so worried about scoring the top grades this time around for that would entail her the blue blazer!
Ok Now I am happy to see her so driven and studying hard to get the required marks( and the blazer) because I know she is a very bright girl who is confident that she is capable of score high marks.

This incentive may be helpful for those smart promising students who have their confidence and morale intact and for whom this may be motivating enough to work harder and be one of the chosen ones to own the blue blazer.

But what about those weaker students who need that extra push and attention to score passing marks or those average ones who may not be scoring as many marks as their top ranking class-mates and who may just have to make do with the ‘ordinary’ green blazers? Does it mean that they are not good enough? Just because they dont have enough numbers on their mark sheets, does it mean that they are not smart enough?

Every child is different and smart in his/her own way. And every child needs encouragement and motivation just as much as any other, if not more.

Which is why I am not sure how motivating such techniques that schools have in place are. Such segregation based on grades and intellect can demoralize a less scoring child, in my opinion. Imagine a group of students wearing green blazers entering a classroom where there are some students in blue blazers. How likely is for the green blazer wearing students to be ignored or looked down upon by their mates in blue blazers or how likely is for the blue blazer wearing students to be grudged of their status by their mates in green blazers?

I have seen and heard of instances where teachers have favoured the high scoring students by investing time and energy on them, over the weaker students.

Why, its approaches like this that make those overbearing parents sit on their children’s head like a hawk and push them to perform beyond their capacity.

I find such methods so utterly discriminating and unfair. And I have my doubts how encouraging and helpful these are for our children. Hope I am wrong.