11 July 2009

Competitiveness: A Postscript



Yes, it was rather unfair of me to just throw questions out there without sharing my personal perspective on the subject. I don’t have the answers to the questions that I’d listed in my previous post. At any rate, here goes an attempt at dissecting my thoughts and actions when it comes to “competitiveness”:

Even though I am competitive by nature, for the most part, I’m all about making everything “fun” for the kids. They are kids after all. I am a believer in the “learn through play” philosophy (broadly speaking), but I am very conscious about the fact that life is not just all fun, that most of the time, we do need to put in an effort, to work hard.

Anything new that I’m introducing, I try to present it as something fun. I do my share of “Well done’s” and “Good job’s,” but you’ll often hear me say, “That was fun, wasn’t it?” Because at this stage, it is still about having fun. When I get an affirmative from the kids, I feel that we’re definitely on the right track and that that activity is worthwhile.

That said, what about those times when the fun factor has been established, but then somewhere midstream, it ceases to be “fun” because a task gets to be slightly beyond their ability or because others could do certain things better? Are these opportunities to explore motivation, teach about perseverance?

On most days, I am very happy that Josh is competitive, but not aggressive. He wants to be the “mostest” at many things, but he also easily moves on and does not dwell if he does not succeed at a task. He is fairly laid back that way and I absolutely love that about him. There are moments, however, where I question if maybe he should feel a bit of annoyance (just a bit, mind you) and if maybe that could make him push himself more.

And then at his worst, we have seen Josh just throw in the towel, because “it’s too tough.” With him, in those instances, there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. He sees a task as either something he’s good at or something in which he does not excel. This is where I struggle. When he gives up, obviously it’s not fun for him anymore. I’ve done the “Yes, I know it’s tough, but that’s why we have to try / practice, so that it’ll get easier”; I’ve also tried the “Okay, let’s take a break for now and try again in a little bit”; I’ve been guilty of pulling the “Just do it. Look, everybody else is doing it. Do you want to be known as the boy who did not want to try?” Oh, also the corny “You know, when I was your age, I thought it was tough, too, but I practiced and I tried…”

All of the above have worked differently on different occasions --depending on my mood and his. We’ve had some power struggles and we’ve also had some peaceful resolution. Most of the time, I don’t know what to expect and right there in the moment, I’m scrambling for the right thing to say and do.

It really bugs me that I am constantly second-guessing myself when it comes to parenting. It bugs me all the more that I am so unsure when the stakes are so much higher than anything else I’ve ever done.

2 COMMENTS:

LPC said...

This comment is from the finish line of one part of this race. I have now had two kids at Princeton. Yes, in part they were accepted because I'm an alum. However, my son was also accepted at Brown and Penn, where they didn't know us from the proverbial Adam. Here's the thing that I know now. Our kids are hard-wired for so much. So much. Our job isn't to turn them into someone they are not. It is to make them comfortable in their selves and to give them access to the full range of who they are. And, and, to tell them how we feel, since they will figure it out anyway, all the while trying to keep them safe from our deepest desires. If necessary.

Of course, I may eat my words. At this point, with one 21 and one 19, I only wish that they prevail. Since I've already gotten my prizes from their academic success. So. If I have anything to pass on to the parents of little kids, that's it.

Veronica Lee said...

My son, Josh, flies into a rage whenever he can't accomplish something whether it's homework, a computer game or getting his necktie right. This problem has been bugging me and I don't quite know how to handle him. He only wants to do stuff he excels in.

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