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What About Competition?

by Marcie

I was wondering about competition. We are not a sports oriented family so this is not really the issue.

We are going to start the Un-schooling approach and I have read that board games are a great, fun way to learn math. I did get the last LOA parenting game from you, that has suggestions for allowing them to make up their own rules for games. I liked this.

I was wondering how to handle the board games and the feelings about losing, winning, and competition.

THANKS in advance.

Comments for What About Competition?

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Personal Achievement Rather Than Win/Loose
by: Annie Desantis

That's a good question. Some kids are naturally more competitive, and actually are motivated by the challenge of competition.

You can't cut out competition from your child's life, our society tends to be fairly competitive, but it is really about how much importance is attached to it. Kids love having running races, or competitions or playing board games, and as you say using board games as a maths learning activity is a great idea.

Even though you are not sports orientated, there is a lot of learning for kids involved in sports - learning to work in a team, of course the physical skills etc. But it can be tricky when those teams get out of balance in terms of the focus on being competitive. I have seen awful displays by parents on the sidelines abusing their kids for not performing, or abusing the other team or a referee!

When we look at something like the Olympic Games, these people win by fractions of a second! So how meaningful is the winning over someone else when there is only a split second between them? Really the achievement is how hard they have all worked to get their bodies to a peak performance level, and that they have such incredible focus on their dreams. Some good lessons to be learned from that level of competition, even if we don't personally want to be so dedicated to compete.

So it is more about making it fun and putting the emphasis on the challenge itself, not the outcome. It is better if kids are striving to beat their own records and being the best they can be, rather than having to win at the expense of someone else loosing.

With kids games, you just have to be creative about what the goal is - change the rules, give the older kids an additional challenge, give points for cooperation rather than out and out winning.

However, you would still celebrate a win. It is more from a point of celebrating personal or team achievement, rather than beating someone else. Kids also need to learn to value themselves at whatever level they are at, and of course they are not all going to have exactly the same skills or level of mastery.

You can switch the focus of the winner getting the BIG prize, and make it a silly prize or having a celebration that focuses on the amount of fun or the skills learned or mastered, and play down the loosing aspect.

You can also re-frame the term looser, instead of someone lost, it is simply they still have more skills to learn, or have strengths in other areas. Kids still need to have the skills to handle situations when they are out in the big wide world and may be up against something far more competitive than they are used to. If they have good self esteem, and feel good about themselves whether they win or loose, then it really is not such an issue.

Annie Desantis :)

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