Let’s talk about family. The importance of postponing the start of the competition
We learned –or were taught– to compete from a very young age: “why won’t you be a collaborator like your brother?”, “you’re so jealous, just like your uncle Pedro”, “hurry up to finish eating so you can beat your cousin” , “you’re so neat, not like your sister…” Tidy, good, responsible and many other adjectives that we launch at large, with the more or less conscious intention of fostering certain traits in them, of pushing the boys forward, in the direction that seems appropriate to us.
Surely that’s how our parents did it in our childhood and we have that mechanism engraved in the brain. Today’s adults were raised from a young age in competition, first with siblings, then for years at school (the report card was given to me in order of grades – from best to worst – luckily I was a good student but I can’t even imagine how the one who received it last must have had it).
Today we know that for the boys competition does not work as a stimulus to improve but that it can be humiliating, stressful, toxic and that they consume energy, either in distracting themselves by trying not to notice, hiding what they feel, and/or detoxifying themselves from those well-intentioned, although harmful, attempts to stimulate them.
The problem is not the competition itself, but rushing to use it. In older adolescents and adults it works impeccably to give the best of oneself, when we already have a strong self and resources that allow us to do it healthily, knowing that we can lose, or not be chosen, recognizing that it is something that happens to us and that we don’t It speaks of our value as people: we compete in an audition to act in a musical comedy, with the resume to get a job, doing a sport, or in a literary contest. It is part of our everyday lives and we find it difficult to realize how harmful it can be for children. In any case, this is not always the case: many adults do not manage to give their best in competition, they get scared, they collapse due to the fear of failure and instead flourish with other types of stimuli.
Today we know that for boys competition does not work as a stimulus to improve but that it can be humiliating, stressful, toxic and that they consume energy, either by distracting themselves trying not to notice, hiding what they feel, and/or detoxifying from those attempts well-intentioned, though harmful, attempts to stimulate them.
When we grow up we see that competition helps us to make an effort and improve. The issue is to review at what age it is convenient for them to start competing, and in what subjects.
The baby first receives love, presence, availability, empathy, unconditionality and in this matrix of a secure bond he learns from the model of his parents who are there to help him and accompany him to display his best features. It is in that safe environment, with very little alertness or defensiveness, that she learns to trust herself and to surrender to those relationships and seek new ones as she grows older. And she dares to think, to invent, without measuring herself against others, eventually competing with herself. Interesting option for parents to compare our children with themselves: their drawings this year with those of last year and those of the previous year, the same with their level of comprehensive reading and many other topics. That they understand that over time they reach their goals, but that they do not get used to looking at the neighbor because they lose strength by doing so; the ideal is that they look at themselves and try to improve. Let’s stimulate, let’s encourage their efforts so that they can display the best version of themselves and not what we want for them.
In any case, and even without favoring her, the competition arises between the boys. The issue is that we do not encourage it ahead of time. They compete for the attention and love of their mother or father, for the use of mom or dad’s cell phone, they see who we look at with more love or pay more attention, who we go to see the game, who we let help us in the kitchen, etc. And they conclude: she loves him more than me (that is, I lost), or she loves me more than her (I won!).
Evolutionarily, around the age of nine they are ready to play a game and win or lose, and in adolescence they can already participate in tournaments and championships. Since much more boys play and win or lose, and at those ages we often see their attempts to change the rules, cheat, get angry, even give up, when they are losing because emotionally they are not prepared to lose… And we parents are there to accompany their pain, so that they know that it is not the end of the world and that their lives do not end in that match, so that, without getting angry, we can help them learn to tolerate the rules and abide by them.
Let’s encourage, let’s encourage exploration, effort, trials, regardless of the result. Let us value the courage to try, the desire to do it again, discovering failures and mistakes as part of learning and the process. In order to do so, many adults have to review some prejudices, those topics that we learned as children and that we use today without reviewing their validity.
Society over favors competition to obtain results and this discourages children who do not have enough internal strength to perceive it as an encouragement. It would be interesting if we were focusing on valuing the effort, even the path traveled, regardless of the result. It seems that it is not enough to sweat the shirt, play as a team and run the ball. If we don’t score goals, if we don’t win the game, it doesn’t seem to work. And not only in sports, the same happens in countless subjects, let’s see it in dictation or in the math test: it is not about making an effort to learn or study to know, if we are not attentive we can make our children feel that the only thing that matters is the grade they got.
Let’s encourage, let’s encourage exploration, effort, trials, regardless of the result. Let us value the courage to try, the desire to do it again, discovering failures and mistakes as part of learning and the process. In order to do so, many adults have to review some prejudices, those topics that we learned as children and that we use today without reviewing their validity. When we do, our children spend less time competing, defensive or attacking, and as a result spend more time growing, learning and enjoying childhood.