How to Tell If Your Child Is Too Competitive
A version of this article originally appeared on Learnvest.com.
Did you ever win a race or a spelling bee? Do you remember how you felt?
Research has shown that these “winning” moments may have a lasting effect: In a study of over 1,200 successful women, psychologist Sylvia Rimm of the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine found that they most frequently recalled winning in competition as a positive childhood experience.
Under certain conditions, succeeding in a competitive environment is linked to general success and happiness. Oscar winners, for instance, live an average of four years longer than nominees. Kids who were popular in high school (thus succeeding in a competitive social environment) earn an average of 10% more than unpopular kids.
Yet, for some children, competition can actually reduce the motivation to succeed. As research from the Davidson Institute for Talent Development points out, competition “is good for some, but it may result in a few winners and many losers.” Some students, especially those who are less motivated or who have a history of underachieving, “often have difficulty dealing with defeat.”
In other words, while competition can encourage certain kinds of kids, it can discourage others. And that doesn’t even account for the burnout and stress that often accompany the fight to be number one.
In this Tiger Mom age of highly competitive school admissions—and not just for college, either—parents are pushing their kids to new heights. This begs a few questions: Are you really doing your child a favor by going to great lengths to make sure he ends up in the top slot? If she’s supremely stressed out over track tournaments and AP tests … is that kind of self-motivation good or bad?
As the mantra goes, all things in moderation. Your job is to help your child succeed—but not at the expense of mental health. Here’s how to know if your kid is becoming too competitive: