And What Can We Learn From This?

Last week Molly shared some great thoughts about competition surrounding the county fairs. She ended by asking, “What strategies do you have for ‘staying cool, calm, and collected’ during intense competition?” I’m the new member on the blog team so guess I’ll jump right into the topic. As a former 4-Her and mother of a 4-Her, I have plenty of first-hand experience with the competition issue. And if you want to learn a little more about me, click on the “about us” tab.

Have I always stayed cool, calm and collected? Wish I could say yes but I will admit to a few lapses here and there. What I do know is that my demeanor (and that of my child or grandchild) usually follows my perspective on the event. If I focus on skills and experiences rather than the end product, it is easier to stay calm. Start by understanding what the real meaning of your child’s experience involves. Then provide the support and encouragement the child needs. My girls can still hear me saying, “And what can we learn from this?”

Sure it is fun to get blue ribbons, have an exhibit chosen for the state fair, show the grand champion animal, or be crowned fair queen. Reality is – only a few children can achieve these results. Does that mean the rest of the children (and their parents) lose? Of course not if we truly believe in the adage of “child first, winning second.”

Did you know that children 8-12 years want to be involved to have fun? Even in junior high, fun remains the number one reason to compete. If you need a nudge on this one, stop by the livestock barn or foodstand after the day’s activities. There you will find the children enjoying being together and those are the good memories that last long after ribbons and trophies.

— Donna

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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4 thoughts on “And What Can We Learn From This?

  1. Last week I attended a national competition with my daughter. Your blog post was timely and reminded me of what is truly important when we place our children in competitive atmospheres – the experience and lessons learned. The parents around me who were focusing only on the competition and winning were missing the wonderful opportunity to celebrate their child’s growth in the sport and the friendships made throughout the week. I can’t think of many better life lessons than encouraging your child to perform their best – then celebrating what went well while giving thought to how to improve for the next time. Whether or not they bring home the first place trophy – those will be the future adults better able to manage in life!

  2. That one step back to take a look at what is happening, what is really important – gives us a wonderful parenting perspective.

  3. What’s interesting is that many events feel the need to give everyone a ribbon, which I think perpetuates the idea that you should “get something” every time you participate and drives competition even further. We lose some intrinsic motivation points when we do that. It seems like kids do have natural competitive drive, but I totally agree that focusing on skill and experience is far more important than anything else. The trophies end up just being dust-catchers; the skills live on forever. Thanks for a great post!

  4. Ah – it’s finding that balance. The balance between the competition that helps a child to do his best and the competition that becomes an end in itself.

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