Competitiveness in the Family

The question is; should a parent actively encourage their children to be competitive?
I read an article recently that said for Donald Trump’s children family holidays were a very competitive affair. His son, Eric, recalls that when skiing in Aspen, his father was so keen to beat his children in races that he would push them over or hold them back with a ski pole. Imagine a grown man pushing over a 10 -year old to win a race!
But should parents actively encourage competition in their children? In our house, I think my husband is too competitive and very rarely lets the children win. He thinks that the children must learn how to be graceful in both victory and defeat whether it be board games, sports or quizzes. I understand this approach as the children move into their teenage years, but he has been that way since they could walk! However, they are beginning to have the last laugh, as they are now becoming the winners and they are teaching him not to be a sore loser. Ouch! He’s finding that tough.
This is a question that I have struggled with at times. Certainly the world I was brought up in was different to the world I am raising my children in. I can recall taking part in preliminary heats for the school sports day and the top six runners in each event made it to the final on the day, to race in front of all the parents and all the school. If you were not in the top six – hard luck!
This was the same for other sports and activities, including the choir. Everyone had to sing a solo in front of the music teacher, who would make X Factor, Simon Cowell look like a pussycat. I can recall being genuinely keen to succeed and, believe me, there were times when I knew what failure felt like. It was on these occasions that my mum would produce the tissue to dry my eyes and give me a hug to make feel better. However, I was at these try-outs and auditions because I really wanted to be there, and I really wanted to succeed. Gosh and I would never have described myself as competitive!
I knew the coach who ran the football team at the school my children used to go to and he told me that these days it is just a matter of signing up. He said he felt under pressure to play every player whether they were good or not, or whether they even turned up for the practice, and at the end of the season every child got an award. He felt unable to acknowledge the really skilled players, for fear of upsetting the less skilled children.
I question what type of message we are sending to our children, if this is now the case. Are we allowing our kids to grow up with a false sense of achievement and a lack of understanding that hard work creates success?
If so, we are not properly preparing our children for the world we live in. Our children need to be emotionally healthy and strong to face the roller coaster that is life. From adversity comes strength of character, however, too many challenges and too much pressure from parents and teachers can be very damaging to a child’s self confidence and emotional development. As always a good balance is the answer.

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