Making Competition Healthy for Your Kids

As a good parent, you know that teachable moments can be found all over the place, you just have to keep an eye out for them. For example, you’re planning your kid’s birthday party, and one of the many things that needs to be done is figuring out which fun kid’s party games to play. Here’s where it gets a little tricky. By their very nature, games have winners and losers, right? On the one hand, you don’t want one kid losing a game and having a miserable time at the party. On the other hand, today’s world is, in large part, built on the concept of cooperation and competition, and the sooner the kids get that, the better off they’ll be. You can use your kid’s birthday party games as an opportunity for a hands-on lesson in healthy competition.

It’s our responsibility, as parents, to prepare our kids for a competitive environment, because in life, competition is everywhere and they won’t be successful adults if they don’t learn the rules of fair and healthy competition as kids, through play. They need to understand that sometimes they’ll lose and other times they’ll win, and it isn’t always important. But we need there to be an emphasis on healthy competition. Your child winning a game and shouting, “IN YOUR FACE,” to everybody else isn’t helpful to anybody, and may lead to your kid being the one picked last in team sports and left out at company gatherings as an adult. Here are a few helpful tips to encourage positive competition in children to keep in mind when planning your kid’s birthday party .

#1 Don’t Be a Sore Loser

One of the biggest displays of character is how someone acts when they have lost. We have all seen the losers who stomp around, throwing a fit about it or become violent or angry claiming that the winner cheated. Nobody likes a sore loser, but losing will happen in life. Your kids will go further if they learn that sometimes, you can do everything right and still come in second. In a case like that, dust yourself off and promise to work harder and do better next time.

#2 Be a Humble Winner

The flip side of that coin is being a gracious winner. Everybody has dealt with someone who won a competition and proceeded to crow and boast about it to anyone who would listen, usually putting down the loser. Remind your kids that, while it’s okay to be proud of yourself for making a good effort, it’s not okay to rub the victory in somebody else’s face. Teach them to accept a win and congratulations humbly.

#3 Don’t Cheat

It’s a tragedy in today’s world that we teach kids to follow the rules and be good sports, but we tell adults to do whatever it takes to win, including bending and breaking the rules. Showing respect for the rules and good sportsmanship is a big step towards becoming a mature and thoughtful adult. The direct link to cheating in play games and stealing and lying should be readily apparent. Trustworthiness and honesty go a long way in life. Besides, many of the people who cheat to win are just proving that they don’t have what it takes to win fairly.

#4 Strategize

One of the most important things in life is knowing when to take a risk and to look at all the possible outcomes before making your move. Games and youth sports are an excellent way to show kids the values of developing strategies and taking risks to win a game or accomplish an objective. These settings have relatively low stakes, so kids can initially take a chance without huge consequences. Plus, it can show kids that those who constantly play it safe will end up not getting very far. This is also an excellent time for kids to develop leadership skills and self-confidence.

#5 Be Creative

Along similar lines, not every opponent can be beaten the same way and not every problem has the same solution. Creativity plays a large part in competition, and kids should always be encouraged to stretch their thinking and develop new tactics for new situations. This will help develop critical thinking and sound reasoning skills. Plus, when playing on a team, team strategies can often be much more effective than individual plans.

Play is a critical part in a kid’s healthy development and a birthday party is the perfect venue to help develop many kids at the same time. When you are deciding on what games to play at your kid’s birthday party, keep these tips in mind to ensure that every kid has fun and walks away with something useful, even if they aren’t aware of it! For some ideas on fun birthday party games, read our previous article, Fun Games for Kids