Every Loser Wins

In which our reluctant hero assesses the competition.

The more perceptive of you may have noticed a picture of a glittery bauble above and assumed that this is another post about Christmas. You would be quite wrong. It isn’t. Well, maybe just a little.

The bauble was decorated by our four year old for her school nursery’s bauble decorating competition. It is an eclectic mix of glitter, more glitter, shiny things, glittery things, a couple of stickers and a feather for good measure, stuck down with a gallon of PVA glue. Over the course of several sittings, the layers slowly built up until, finally, it was ready for entry into the competition. The time and effort put in was incredible. Best of all, she did it all by herself. All of it.

The temptation to help, be it design tips, submitting draft plans, or simply pointing out the bits missing glue and glitter was torturous. It always is. We could have decorated our own baubles of course but where would the fun be in that? It’s better to sit in the back seat squawking out directions or shouting “ARE WE NEARLY THERE YET?” than actually driving after all.

Will the bauble win a prize? Who knows. Does it matter? Probably not. Or does it?

We all like to succeed, it’s human nature. Doing something well makes you like doing it just that bit more than doing something that you’re a bit rubbish at. Add winning a prize into the mix and bingo. A passion for life. Maybe.

If the task is too easy or too difficult though, you may lose interest. However, if there’s sufficient challenge and things are still achievable then that’s probably about right. Like playing those machines at the amusement arcade where you get to feel a fluffy toy with a grabber three times for a quid. It’s tricky, but with persistence, dedication and about fifty quid in change, you know that you’ll win in the end.

But is competition really the answer, especially when little people are involved?

Like with most things in life, there are pros and cons. Positives could perhaps include increased self-esteem, learning how to win or lose gracefully, understanding the importance of team participation, trying new things, making new friends, learning to set achievable goals, to name but a few. On the flip side, confidence could take a knock or interest in taking part could be lost, causing withdrawal or even stress. Blimey.

Most of the negatives are unthinkable as a parent, especially the stress element. But there has to be a balance somewhere. Life isn’t about winning all of the time, but it can’t be about losing all of the time either. Either extreme is unhealthy, be it for children or adults.

Another consideration in this is our natural competitiveness. As an example, our daughter became interested in board games at about two years old. Once the basic concept of a given game was grasped, we would start to play, but it wouldn’t be long before she start cheating. If rumbled, it was full on waterworks in seconds and she no longer wanted to play. It’s genuinely puzzling as to where this behaviour came from at such a young age, although I distinctly remember her uncle displaying similar traits as a youngster. *Coughs*

Now at a similar age, our youngest occasionally wants to win too, especially in the ‘jama race. He is also prone to the odd bit of cheating too, a recent favourite being “I saw the sea first!!” while driving through Spaghetti Junction on the way to holidays. That’s not the sea, it’s Star City.

The compromise (according to the internet which is never ever wrong) appears to be “healthy competition,” whatever that is.

Having popped my thinking boots on, I’ve interpreted this as probably meaning working out what you motivates you, what you’re trying to achieve, being sensible and, importantly, making sure that you enjoy whatever it is that you’re doing.

So, if you love skiing and it turns out that you’re good at it, great. Ski as fast as you can and try to compete against other skiers if that’s your want. If you love skiing but keep coming last, maybe stop worrying about everybody else. Ski against yourself or the clock instead. Set sensible goals, try to improve, take pleasure from your achievements, do the best you can and enjoy it. And if that doesn’t work, forget the slopes, head for the jumps and bang in an application to enter the Winter Olympics instead, like this fella did.

And there’s maybe a lesson for us all in there somewhere. You may not be the best, but keep persevering and smiling and you can achieve things. Probably the best thing that we can do as parents is to encourage and support our children, rather than set the bar too high and knock them down.

Getting back to the bauble. Our daughter understands that she’s entering a competition, but I get the impression that it won’t be the end of the world if she doesn’t win. She put a load of thought and effort in, did the very best she could all by herself, and enjoyed it without any pressure. And I’m happy with that.

Hopefully the teachers will spot any baubles where a ringer has been drafted in to help come judgment day. If they don’t, rest assured that my paint brushes and tube of UHU are coming out next time. Not that I’m competitive or anything.



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