From an early age, a child begins to compare himself or herself to others. Already at preschool age, children regularly participate in competitions with peers and learn about the limits of their own and others’ abilities – not only in simple physical actions. When they get older, they compare their results at online casino games or even cooking to other people. Then games become more complicated: there are more rules, many of them already have winners and losers. The emphasis shifts to the result of the activity: now I am no longer so good that I just managed to cut something out, because someone else was able to cut it out better.
At school, the situation is fueled by teachers’ evaluations. Even if there is no habitual grading system in the lower grades, children still hear and see how the teacher treats the results of their work. A division into groups appears, and in many situations these groups compete. It becomes attractive to the child to win at everything, and this race to win can lead to serious problems as an adult.
To prevent this from happening, it is important to try to convey to a young school child that it is impossible to always be first in everything, and to teach him or her how to process feelings after a loss. Here are some actions to help with this.
Try to Shift the Focus From the Outcome to the Process
Of course, losing is unpleasant. If the result is not what you wanted, it’s perfectly normal to be disappointed, and anyone will be sad. But does the child have other emotions that arose during the process? Was the very moment of action, the process of playing, interesting?
Ask the child: did he or she like what he or she was involved in in general? If it is a game, does he want to try again? Or was he just playing for company? Does he want to learn to play better? What can you do to help him? For example, you can explain the rules more clearly or practice dexterity with your child.
Say What Influences the Result of the Activity
In general, there are two factors: the initial data and the environment. You can’t rule out a moment of luck and the influence of tools. We can lose because we didn’t get enough sleep or because the dice fell out the wrong way. It is important that we give our best effort and have fun while participating. Pay attention to the fact that different people also have different starting points. A tall person is more likely to pull anything off a high shelf. One child will memorize the multiplication table faster than another, but that also doesn’t define that other if they are both trying. Explain to your child that the only thing to strive for is to be better than yourself. You can get a habit (or practice) tracker and mark your progress in exercises – it’s nice to know that you’re finally doing even small activities that you couldn’t do before.
Praise Your Child Consciously
If he didn’t do what he was striving for, pay attention to the experience, to small improvements. When he lost in a competition – to the good company of friends, to his efforts in the competition. Just to say that he is “the best anyway” isn’t worth it: the value of these words quickly loses its meaning, because it is obvious to the child that he is not. But learning to love yourself for trying is very important. At first parents help, but then the child will learn to recognize what he or she was good at.
Tell Them That the Outcome of Any Case Is Just One Example of How It Can Be
The winner of the game today is not the winner of the game forever. Any “ultimate champion” understands that, over time, that title will pass to another. And you can take part in the competition as many times as you want, as long as you have the desire and excitement.
All objects of reality are subject to classification and, therefore, comparison. For any parameter, there is a benchmark: size, price, ability. Striving to this standard, we actually limit ourselves, because we exclude the possibility of existence of the whole variety of variants.
It seems that winning is 1 and losing is 0, but in fact there is an infinite variety of values from 0 to 1. 0 is not a loss, but rather inaction. The desire to do everything perfectly all the time can lead to an unwillingness to do anything at all, to impostor syndrome. Adults with these thoughts fear promotions at work, long-term deep relationships. Children refuse to do anything new. It is important to bring up such topics in conversations with your child, to discuss the many facets of the world.
In our minds we have standards for all existing concepts. But the real objects we love and appreciate are not at all for how close they are to these standards. In the same way, we should love and appreciate ourselves for our full participation in life, not for the expectations we live up to.