The big competition in my house right now involves brushing teeth at night. My 5-year-old, G, and 2-year-old, Biz, run up the stairs yelling “I teeth!” (The expression came from Biz, and it stuck.) Both want to reach the sink first in order to start putting toothpaste on their respective brushes. My dentist would be proud.
Of course, their rush to the sink has nothing to do with proper dental hygiene. They just want to win the fight. Rather than discourage the competition, my husband and I go along with it. (Why discourage teeth brushing, right?) Whoever calls “I teeth” first gets the privilege of brushing before the other. So far, they pretty much go back and forth each night. While there may be some whining from the loser of the “I teeth” battle, they understand that they’re not going to win it every night. And if they can’t play the game nice, they don’t get to play it at all.
Sometimes I think we’re in the minority, but my husband and I believe that a little competition is good for kids. We’re both competitive and have achieved a decent amount of success in our lives because of it. I have to admit, I cringed when I heard G talking about races they have in gym where everyone wins.
I understand that you don’t want to put too much emphasis on winning in kindergarten, but you don’t have to discourage it either.
When I asked Gavin who was finishing the races before the others, he told me there was a girl in his class that kept winning. He sounded discouraged when he told me. I pointed out that maybe she has had more practice doing those type of races, or maybe she was just naturally fast. Maybe, if he practiced more, he could be just as fast. He was fine with that. He just didn’t like that she was bragging about her wins to her classmates.
This is why I think it’s so important to communicate with your child about these things. Dig a little deeper. I was trying to make the point that winning is okay. In fact, it’s feels pretty good when you win. However, it’s important that you be a good sport when you win. It’s also important to know that you’re not always going to win. No one is perfect. He noted that he didn’t feel good when his friend bragged about winning. My husband and I are quick to point out when he goes too far when he wins, like when he beats me at a video game. How would you feel if someone treated you that way?
It’s an ongoing lesson, but I think it’s important. We can’t shelter our kids from disappointment forever. While the coaches didn’t keep score during the kindergarten soccer games this past fall, the kids did. They knew exactly which team had more goals. Sometimes G was on the winning end, and sometimes his team barely scored a goal. Either way, we always talked to G about the positive things his team accomplished in the game, despite the win or loss. Maybe they showed good teamwork, passed the ball more or showed improvement since the previous week. I could see G’s competitive juices flow, and I wanted to encourage him. By the end, he could see how good teamwork helped his team score more and how more practice made him a better player. If you ask him now, he doesn’t remember how many games were won or lost. He’s just looking forward to next fall when he can play again.
Win or lose.