Competition and Being First

Do your children struggle with winning and losing in play?

Are they crushed when they can’t be the first or the best at something?

Here are some tips to help you calm the competition:

  • Coach your child on how to be a good winner and a good loser – Being a good winner includes congratulating the other players, celebrating in ways that consider others and encouraging more play. Being a good loser includes congratulating the winner, expressing disappointment in comfortable ways and continuing to participate as appropriate. Teaching this can take a great deal of time and effort.
  • Even if it is really difficult, don’t avoid playing – Children who struggle with competition need more practice, not less.
  • Start small with competition – If your child has difficulty with winning and losing, it may be best to start small. It may be easier to manage emotions with a game like tic-tac-toe or Hullabaloo that takes a minute to play rather than a game like Candyland that requires a 20 minute investment.
  • Focus on cooperative efforts – For children who need to be the first or the best, offer cooperative activities more often. Think a movie rather than a board game or a relay to beat the clock rather than a race against each other.
  • Play cooperative games – Snail’s Pace Race, Colorama and Caterpillar Crawl all by Ravensburger are fun cooperative board games. You can make Candyland a cooperative effort by all being the blue guy and seeing how fast everyone working together can get him to the castle. Everybody Wins! by Sobel offers hundreds of non-competitive play ideas.
  • Read about it – Good books include The Mightiest by Kasza, Winners Never Quit and Go for the Goal: A Champions Guide to Winning in Soccer and in Life both by Mia Hamm, Timothy Goes to School by Wells and Competition: Deal with It by Messier.

Children can join my Competition Boot Camp – Sat. Oct. 9th:

>Bossy Children

>Dear Dr. Hackney,

How does one curb in a child who always is trying to boss around other children and is telling them what to do, how to do it, when to do it and so on?

Thank You!
Blog Reader, February 2008

Dear Reader,

You might try to give her more productive ways to be a leader, such as putting her in charge of clean-up or letting her decide who sits where at the dinner table. Other times during the day, you can say, “Thank you, but this is not your job. Your job today was seat-assigner. You were really helpful at that.”

You also might try to implement Stanley Greenspan’s Floortime which is a specific type of parent-child play that is to be practiced 20 minutes per day. Floortime gives children a chance to be the leaders in play. When playing this game, it may give her leadership voice an outlet that you can live with better.

In other moments of bossiness, you might model the language you would prefer she use. This means if she tells another child, “Chrissy, you need to move over here and play with this doll!” You might say, “Well, let’s ask Chrissy. Chrissy, do you want to sit here and play with this doll?” Then turn to your child and suggest, “That would be a nice way to ask Chrissy.” As you are going to review this often over time, it is best to go at it in a light way not heavy, meaning this is not a time for consequences. If you intervene often when she is being bossy and redirect her to asking from telling, hopefully, she will pick up on the preferred approach.

You might also have a related discussion later in the day to reinforce the new language. As you tuck her in bed, you might say, “Today, when Chrissy was here to play, did you hear mommy ask her if she wanted to move and play with another doll? I think Chrissy likes being asked to move rather than being told to move. What do you think?”

Rene Hackney, PhD.
Parenting Playgroups, Inc.

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