Competition Begins at Home

  It wasn't until I homeschooled that I came across the philosophy that competition is bad.  Please don't misunderstand, I'm not saying all home educators think competition is unhealthy. I'm just saying that is where I first encountered the notion.  A friend of mine, who had a nonathletic daughter, didn't want her  to have to compete in an athletic event.
  Granted, this daughter was an only child and probably hadn't had many opportunities to win or lose.  Obviously, just having a sibling sets one up for those inevitable competitions. But, was it a good idea to try to shelter her from that possiblity?  I think not.
   Last year, an article written by the Rev. Ann Keeler Evans, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in the Susquehanna Valley, reminded me, once again, that some people think we need to protect our children from losing.  In this case, it was in a dreidel game between a 13 year old and his grandpa.  She seemed to think that the grandfather "needed" to win because he no longer had a place in his life to win.  I'm thinking that he believed there was nothing wrong with an honest game between a 13 year old and an adult.  Neither would I.
      On one hand, parents are enrolling their kids in classes, camps, preschools, and the like to get them an edge from the get go.  Some nervously compare their kids to their friend's and family's kids in matters such as walking and talking before they are even one year old.  On the other hand, they don't want their kids to experience the disappointment of losing a game.  Is this realistic?  Is it even healthy?
    Our youngest daughter, Rebekah, has had her share of losing.  She has six older siblings who will not hesitate to beat her in a game.  We have never counseled them to "let her win".  We will not quibble at beating her ourselves, if we can.  And what has this produced?  One very determined individual.
   What is at stake here?  Much more than games.  Life is full of competition.  Who gets the guy/girl?  Who gets the college scholarship?  Who gets the job or promotion?  Games are really a prelude to life.  They teach us about both winning and losing.  For one, we learn that some people are born with abilities we don't have.  We also learn that by hard work we can hone the talents we do have and/or narrow the natural discrepancy.  We learn that life isn't always fair. 
    My grandfather and I used to enjoy some very competitive games of ping pong.  But there came a time when, due to his aging, I could easily beat him.  I tried to "back off" that he might preserve his dignity.  But I was never really sure if he knew I wasn't doing my best.  Eventually, we shied away from the game until we no longer played. 
   The moral of this story is that there is a time and a place to deliberately lose, but choose carefully when that should be.


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