"Winning doesn’t build character; it just lets a child gloat temporarily. By definition, not everyone can win a contest. If one child wins, another cannot,” wrote US author Alfie Kohn in his best-selling book No Contest: The Case Against Competition.
He believes competition leads children to envy winners and dismiss losers.
In modern school, graders demand winners and losers and while we may all want report card winners who excel - we don’t want a show off who alienates him or herself from peers.
According to Ashley Merryman, co-author of Top Dog: The Science Of Winning And Losing, competition drives creativity.
“Whether professional musicians or school children, studies have shown competition fuels creativity and even improves the quality of the work produced.
“More than that, the skills that make you a great competitor - such as a willingness to push boundaries, trust one’s instincts - those are the same skills needed for innovation,” she told Forbes Magazine.
So how do you encourage your child to be and do their best and still remain humble?
In a narcissistic world, this is an imperative question for parents concerned with raising balanced young minds.
“Its all about the best props when it comes to oral,” says Riana Howa whose daughter (12) is in Grade 6.
“Moms try to involve the rest of the class by making sure each child gets something. One year, a mother sent popcorn and cupcakes. Guess which child got top marks?”
“There’s a subtle rivalry between parents; an unspoken rule of outdoing each other when it comes to birthday parties.” This is Janice Johannes’ belief.
Both her sons attend a private school, and she finds that birthday parties are all about outdoing the last one. In the past year, her sons were invited to grand parties that included rock climbing and play parks.
But she also finds that it’s a popularity contest among the kids, saying “children tend to talk among themselves, so they plan their parties and their parents just have to follow through”.
It’s a zoo out there
“A few years ago my daughter’s oral was about pets. So what we did was cut out a few pictures from a magazine and make a collage with it. She was pretty chuffed with herself,” recalls Janet White.
“Suffice to say, she came home crying. One of her classmate’s parents had organised an entire zoo for the class. No one took note of anyone’s oral after that.”