Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Double Winner

Tuesdays for me are the day I both a) am the guest poster here at listgirl.com and b) Toastmasters day. I'm sure I've mentioned that before. My role today at Toastmasters was to evaluate another person's prepared speech. I was also called upon during one of the other regular activities - to give an impromptu 90-second mini-speech. At the end of the meeting the club votes to decide who did the best in those two areas along with the best prepared speaker (which I did not do today). As it turns out, I received the most votes in both evaluation and impromptu speaking. Two ribbons for me, yaaaaay! Photobucket It's fun to win; everyone agrees. The "competitions" I participated in today are low stakes affairs. These victories are not things I would brag about or something that would be recognized by anyone as a major accomplishment. Their purpose is mostly fun with maybe a smidge of incentive to participate. But some competitions are more serious. How about interviewing for a job? Perhaps I might enter a songwriting contest where the winner gets a cash prize. Listgirl has entered and occasionally won scrapbooking contests with prizes. The amount that I invest in my own performance and results is a personal choice that I make. As an adult, I can probably live with myself whether the result is exhilaration, disappointment, or indifference. The whole issue becomes thornier when kids are involved. How much pressure should kids put on themselves or have put on them by parents when it comes to their activities - be they school, athletics, or the arts? The American way is to encourage personal growth through competition. Sure, we all recognize that it can go overboard with bad parental behavior. But the premise of the benefits of competition is generally agreed upon. However, I have met some people who sing a different tune. They feel that competition - which always produces losers - is an inherently bad thing for children to participate in. This concept is explained clearly in this article. Excerpt:
Most people lose in most competitive encounters, and it's obvious why that causes self-doubt. But even winning doesn't build character; it just lets a child gloat temporarily. Studies have shown that feelings of self-worth become dependent on external sources of evaluation as a result of competition: Your value is defined by what you've done. Worse -- you're a good person in proportion to the number of people you've beaten.
It's a fact of life that there are winners and losers - especially in capitalism. The job interview I brought up before is a real-world example. So I have a hard time accepting that real-world experience won't help children deal with winning and losing down the road. But the opposing argument at the least serves as a cautionary tale that competition needs to be framed in a proper context at all times. I haven't ruled the other side's way of thinking out yet. Maybe I'll bring it up at my next Socrates Cafe to get some more perspectives. Do any of you parents out there have thoughts about this? Next week at Toastmasters I will be giving a prepared speech. (It's about brain damage and music therapy.) I'll let you know if I win the "best speaker" ribbon.


  1. Those parents who withdraw their children from competitive activities because they fear being flagged as "losers" are also going to be supporting them well into adulthood if they don't wisen up and let the kids fail once in awhile. Failure can be a good thing because it leads to humility and renewed determination and a greater understanding of those who take greater risks in life.

    Just my two-cents, Todd.

  2. My job as a parent is to prepare my children for the world in which they will live. They will not win everything, they will not lose everything. They need to know how to cope with both.

    My job is also to teach my kids that their self worth is based on what God thinks about them, not what the world thinks. (And God loves them so much He sent His Son to die for them...John 3:16)

    Competition is one of the tools to enhance the character building process, but, it's only one..there are many more available.

  3. Sorry for the double comment...

    Congrats, Todd on the ribbons!

    And...great post!

  4. Congrats to your ribbons! =)

    This was a very interesting post, and I had to think about it for a while before answering. I'm sometimes sorry to see that competitions and promoting winners go further down in ages with kids. To me it is important that kids can be kids, and play for fun. At the same time it is important to learn both to win and to loose, and do it gracefully.

    "The most important is not to win, but to participate" is a saying that sums it up for me. As long as participating is fun and gives you something, just stick with it whether you loose or win. I wouldn't let my kid continue with an activity that is only fun on winning days.

    I'm not sure if this makes any sense, and I add the fact that I'm living in Sweden, that I don't think is an as competitive culture as the US. Nothing good or bad with that, just a little different. =)


Thanks for stopping by! I love to hear from you!

[feedly mini]