How To Talk to Children About Competitiveness

03 August, 2020
Discover how to talk to children about competitiveness so that they learn to compete in a positive way that's beneficial rather than harmful.

Teaching your children to be good competitors may seem like a challenging task. Actually, that’s why we want to take this opportunity to offer suggestions on how to talk to children about competitiveness. 

Competition is an integral part of our society. For that same reason, it’s something we tend to encourage within our families. But, what happens when children are no longer able to enjoy their extracurricular activities like sports and even play?

Discover more about how to handle this and other challenges in the article below.

How to talk to children about competitiveness

Before going into the details about how to talk to children about competitiveness, we first want to define the term itself. Basically, we can say that competitiveness implies wanting to reach something that’s beyond what one believed him or herself capable of achieving. As you can see, competition isn’t synonymous with outdoing others. Rather, it’s more personal.

Healthy competitiveness vs. toxic competitiveness

A girl playing a video game on the computer.
Toxic competitiveness interferes with the learning proces and the ability to enjoy sports and games.

Good competitors know how to lose just as well as they know how to win. They’re aware that learning is part of the learning and improvement process, and can conceive of the idea of future triumph.

However, toxic competitors only are concerned about outdoing others. For them, competition has only to do with obtaining superiority, and they believe that they gain nothing by losing. All that losing produces for them is frustration and other negative emotions.

So, what do you desire for your children? 

Without a doubt, it’s probably the first option. Good competitors don’t just enjoy the results, but the process, the journey, as well. That’s because the result isn’t the most important thing for them.

When children only worry about winning or losing, when they’re only concern is outdoing others, they develop a toxic relationship with competition. And this toxicity impedes them from learning, enjoying, and having fun. This is why it’s so important to know how to talk to children about competitiveness.

Discover more: How to Teach Your Child to Apologize

Ideas for encouraging a positive sense of competition

A family playing soccer.
Talk to your children and set a positive example in order to teach them these values.

The first step in turning your children into healthy competitors is to talk to them. Your little ones must understand that what matters most isn’t the final result, but rather the personal effort they put into reaching their goals. Therefore, parents and other adults must set a positive example. If you’re a healthy competitor, then your children are more likely to develop a healthy sense of competition.

Sit down with your children and talk to them about this issue, explaining that everyone wins and loses at different times. For example, tell them about an experience from your own life and talk about your feelings. Your children need to know that it’s normal to feel frustrated when they lose. However, those feelings shouldn’t take away from the fun.

Below, you’ll find a series of ideas that encourage healthy and loyal competition. These suggestions will help your children develop into good competitors.

1. Personal objectives

To raise good competitors, it’s important for your children to strive toward goals. The problem is, we often tend to focus on the wrong objective.

The focus should be: “I want to do the best I can” rather than “I want to be the winner.” This minor shift in the way a child thinks will free them of guilt when they don’t win. Let’s consider, for example, that your child runs track. So, the goal should be to improve their own personal speed, rather than just outgoing the rest of the runners.

2. The importance of effort

Children playing outdoors.
Teach children that their own personal efforts are what matter most in every task they perform–not the final result.

In every area of life, what matters most is that we do our best. Personal effort is worth much more than winning, and that’s what you need to emphasize with your children.

When children put forth a maximum effort, then they’ll show improvement. And nothing’s more important than that growth! In fact, that’s the true victory: Improving with every day, even if we don’t always win.

Don’t miss: 4 Tips to Help a Child Who Suffers from Social Anxiety

3. You need to make mistakes to learn

Without a doubt, when you were a child, someone talked to you about the importance of learning from your mistakes. And the fact of the matter is that mistakes are the best way to learnIf we never make mistakes, then we never improve.

4. Focus on yourself

For children to be able to enjoy activities, they need to take their eyes off the “prize”. Winning shouldn’t be the reward, but rather, they should strive to have fun and learn. Help your children live out and savor each experience so that they can enjoy it and compete healthily.

5. Show your children that you’re proud of them

Children need the unconditional support of their parents. They need to know that you’re on their side. No matter what result they achieve, you love them and are proud of their effort and tenacity.

Don’t let yourself be one of those parents that sit on the sidelines screaming at their kids to make a goal. Avoid situations where your child could feel pressured. 

Finally, remember that for your child to be a good competitor, you need to be one, too!

  • Bisquerra Alzina, R., & Pérez Escoda, N. (2007). Las competencias emocionales. Educación XX1. https://doi.org/10.5944/educxx1.1.10.297
  • Attewell, P. (2016). ¿Qué es una competencia? Pedagogia Social Revista Interuniversitaria. https://doi.org/10.7179/psri_2009.16.03
  • TOLEDANO, Á., & INFANTIL, E. (2009). LA AUTOESTIMA EN LOS NIÑOS/AS. Csi-Csif.Es.