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.
I don’t have a strong background in 4-H, but I do know the competitions can get rough and tough. Just like sports, people spend a lot of time and money preparing for these events. So, if you’re a parent of a child competing in 4-H, how can you keep it all together at these competitions?
- Focus on the child. Every event, win or lose, is a learning experience, and an opportunity for your child to have fun. Let’s face it…if you can’t have fun as a child, when can you have fun? So loosen up a little! Let your child enjoy it!!
- Resist gossip. Even if it’s juicy information about another competitor, parent, or fan…resist the urge to tell the world. Juicy gossip never builds self esteem, and often times, the people dishing it out are the topic of conversation for others.
- Focus on your role as a parent. You are not a judge, officiant, or worker at the competitions. These people are there for a reason. No matter who the authority figure is, you are crossing the line if you try to take over his/her position. Focus on your job as a parent, and work hard to be supportive of your child, and a good role model for him/her.
I realize that these pieces of advice fall into the category of “easier said than done,” especially when it comes to your child. So, I encourage you to start the day of by getting in the right frame of mind. Start by reminding yourself of the bigger picture or purpose behind the day. For example, we enrolled Timmy in 4H because (1) he likes animals, or (2) we wanted him to learn about the family business, or (3) it was an opportunity for him to learn about things I cannot teach him…the list could go on and on, but start by focusing on the larger purpose behind your child’s involvement with 4H.
Then, in moments of heated competitions and rising blood pressures, remind yourself of this “big picture”, and act in accordance with it. If the purpose of getting involved in 4-H was for Timmy to learn about the family business, don’t ruin all his progress by teaching him poor manners. Instead, act in a way that you would want him to act in a tough business situation, should he someday decide to take over the family business.
What strategies do you have for “staying cool, calm, and collected” during intense competition?