Unhealthy vs. Healthy Competition

School is well underway.

And this means most parents spend the majority of their lives at a playing field or on their way to one.

During the competition, parents often cheer excitedly.

During the ride home, everyone tends to discuss the outcome and evaluate performance.

While most parents have good intentions, many may unintentionally dishearten their children and encourage unhealthy competition.

To ensure you’re motivating your kids rather than damaging their self-esteem or promoting unhealthy competition, it’s essential to know the difference.

What is the Difference Between Unhealthy and Healthy Competition?

Unhealthy vs. Healthy CompetitionIn the moment, as you’re reliving the match and sharing your evaluation of your child’s performance, your words and comments might seem to be inconsequential.

However, in the long run, they can have a considerable impact. Note the difference between unhealthy and healthy competition. Which do you encourage in your house?

Healthy Competition

Parents support healthy competition by encouraging their children to focus on doing their best, having fun, and learning a skill.

This type of competition requires teamwork and positive participation.

Participants receive encouragement to improve themselves and learn a new technique.

Winning is just an added bonus.

Unhealthy Competition

This might be difficult for some parents to hear, but focusing on winning and being the best is an unhealthy way to compete.

Parents end up encouraging their children to be better than others, rather than outdoing themselves and focusing on self-enhancement.

The pressure to win is more important than having fun or learning a new skill.

Children who do their best and still lose feel like a failure.

You Might Be Encouraging Unhealthy Competition, and You Don’t Even Know It!

All of us want to do right by our children.

None of us intentionally want to cause them harm or pain.

Unfortunately, there are lots of ways parents promote unhealthy competition without intending to.

Here are three ways you might be leading your child down a path of unhealthy competition.

3 Ways You Might Be Leading Your Child Down a Path of Unhealthy Competition

Unhealthy vs. Healthy Competition

1. Let’s Race!

Unhealthy vs. Healthy CompetitionAs parents, everyone has days when you want to motivate your youngster into action.

However, suggesting the first person to complete a task wins is the wrong way to do it.

Often, the youngest or weakest child comes in last.

This only makes the child feel more dejected.

It also sets up a standard for comparison between your kids, which might lead to friction in their relationship instead of supportiveness.

Kids who end up pitted against their siblings might feel pressured watching their siblings succeed or do well, by feeling that they’re not good enough or that they now have to exceed that achievement.

If you want to get your children to kick it in gear, that’s fine; just don’t resort to racing.

Instead, opt for a way to do something fast without a winner.

For example, “Let’s see how many blocks we can pick up before this song ends.”

2. Being a Bad Example

Unhealthy vs. Healthy Competition

Most parents encourage their children to avoid selfishness and poor sportsmanship.

However, parents caught up in the excitement might sometimes forget their own advice.

They sit in the bleachers and heave insults at children, referees, and coaches.

Instead of being negative, offer positive suggestions.

Way to go, nice hit, and keep it up are all acceptable.

If you are going to offer suggestions for improvement, make sure those are positive too – spread out, bend your knees, work together.

Competition doesn’t end with the game.

Remember to check your comments on the ride home too.

Don’t dwell on the final outcome; instead, note how well your child performed, how nicely the team worked together, and how hard everyone worked.

If your child brings the conversation back to the score, try to redirect to overall effort or signs of improvement.

Remember, children learn through modeling – observing and adapting behaviors from their environment.

As parents, you’re one of the most prominent learning references in your child’s life.

You might be telling them what to do, but if they see you acting differently, that’s the behavior they’ll pick up.

3. Comparisons

Unhealthy vs. Healthy CompetitionAs mentioned in the first section, comparing your children to one another or even to other kids is a bad idea.

Try to avoid letting even an occasional, “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” comment slip out.

These huffy statements are not motivational.

Children will feel inferior and may even come to resent their siblings.

Even if the other child didn’t participate in the comparison, the statement alone is sufficient to form bad blood.

Even if you try to put a positive spin on the comparison, you are still building someone up by putting another down.

Your child will feel pressure always to be better than someone.

You won’t be boosting your child’s self-esteem at all. If anything, you’ll only boost his or her ego.

Follow this advice from the book Siblings Without Rivalry: “Whatever you want to tell a child can be said directly, without any reference to another child.”

Opt for a healthy dose of competition instead of an unhealthy one.

Encourage your child to offer his best.

Focus on your child’s improved skills and positive interactions with teammates.

In the end, your child will be more confident and have healthier relationships with others.

The competitive spirit isn’t just at play on the sports field.

At home, in the classroom, during extracurricular activities and in the future, in the workplace, competition is a natural part of the environment.

The key is to ensure your child grows up practicing healthy competition instead of unhealthy competition.

Not only does that ensure greater confidence and self-esteem, but your child will be happier and more motivated this way, as well.

Which approach of these approaches do you find yourself taking most often?

Do you agree about the differences between healthy and unhealthy competition?

Let’s chat in the comments below!

Guest author Jessica Velasco works for a cornhole supplier; click here to view their products.  Jessica often brings game boards and bags home from the office to play with her family.  However, everyone is aware of Mom and Dad’s expectations to keep the competition healthy and friendly.

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Updated – October 16, 2020 ]