Free Newsletters About Parenting!

Enter your Email

Is Competition Good Or Bad For Children

"I'll fight you in the kitchen, I'll fight you in the bathroom, I'll fight you anywhere."

Remind you of anyone? Yes, it's little Winston. Welcome to his world.
Is Competition Good Or Bad For Children

Characteristics and behaviors 

These children have incredible spirit. They could conquer the world. They will certainly try to conquer your home. The battle can rage on and off for years, leaving you with a sense that never before have so few battled for so long, for so little.

Children with the Winston Churchill syndrome are most likely well suited to future careers in sales, politics, or law. Every interaction has the potential to be a source for battle.

These kids like to boast, and they can't bear to lose. Coming second is tantamount to complete failure for them. In a dispute, these kids don't just dig their heels in - they dig their whole bodies in as well. They are defiant in the extreme, and the expression "Cut off their nose to spite their face" is tailor-made for these kids. Their need to
win at any cost means they will disregard the consequences of their actions.
Why they need help
When winning is everything, life becomes scary. These children can be world-beaters but they can also be lonely and, while they would never show this publicly, can be fearful and have quite low self-esteem. When winning is everything, you fear loss.

Competitors are often sponges for attention, and rely on it. Think about why they need so much attention and try to lessen their constant need for it.
Common adult responses to misbehavior 

The risk in dealing with the Competitors of the child world is that parents enter a power battle. This not only invariably fails (at best, you get compliance, submission, and resentment), it also consolidates the child's view that the world is "either do to first or be done to."

Having a power battle with these kids is like entering the arms race. Parents need to be much, much cleverer than that.
Common responses when told to stop misbehaving
These kids are indomitable and defiant, and will do anything rather than lose face. They will pretend not to care. They will argue and persist. They will continue the behavior even when it goes against their interests because they are so entrenched in the need to win.

Strategies for parenting Competitors 

The first thing to realize is that consequences make no difference. You tell a Competitor that she is grounded and she'll dig her heels in, look you straight in the eye, and say, "I don't care, ground me for as long as you like, I'm happy in my room." Tell her her allowance is docked and she'll tell you she didn't need it anyway. Tell her television is banned for a week, and she'll tell you there's nothing worth watching this week anyway.
Often I hear parents pleading with Competitors along the lines of, "If you'd just do what we want, then you could come out of your room" or "If you'd just feed the cat [or whatever task the debate is about] then you'd get pocket money." Ha! Don't die waiting, because that's how long it will take. These kids are determined, obstinate, and fiercely self-willed.

Don't ever enter into conflict with these children in front of their peers. You will be bound to come off second best. In fact, getting into a stand-off position with these kids is never, ever going to work. I know it sounds sneaky, but you've got to play to your own strengths and prey upon their vulnerabilities.

Competitors often respond well when parents challenge them. It is best to use third-person challenges rather than the "I bet you can't ..." variety, as you don't want to give the impression of being a doubting parent. If, for example, you wanted a budding Martina to clean up her clothes or take charge of her homework, some types of challenges would be: 

  • "Not many people would believe you could ..." 
  • "Not many people would believe you were old enough to..." 
  • "Not many people would believe you were responsible enough to ..."
  • "Most parents wouldn't allow someone your age to ...."
Eventually these challenges can be extended into "Personal Bests." Rather than comparing their performance with others, it can be preferable to have them compare their current performance with past outcomes. For example, parents can develop this by asking questions like, "If you had to give yourself a score out of 10 for how well you rode a bike [ or any activity] a year ago, what would you say? And what score would you give yourself now?"
The concern parents often express in regard to Competitors is not only how to guide them, but also how to help them cope with not winning all the time. If you fear losing, it means that you often avoid trying new activities you may not do well at.

This often leads to a puzzling dilemma for parents: they know their child is passionately motivated, but at school barely lifts a finger to try anything new. It is important to keep your Winston trying different activities.

Comments like "I'm no good at English" or "I suck at Math" are important to ban, as they can operate as powerful cop-outs for Competitors. Say something like, "Remember, this is a no put-down house, and that includes no put-downs of yourself. Anyway, nobody will believe you."

Winning comes naturally to these kids. Playing games doesn't. Look around for opportunities to involve them in activities that don't have a winner and a loser: theater sports, drama, Frisbee throwing, kite flying, exercise. You may also need to teach them how to win gracefully rather than gloating and boasting.

Competitors are also generally good at taking on responsibilities. So making sure they have a few age-appropriate areas of responsibility helps them to develop. To find out more, you can check out Is Competition Good Or Bad For Children.