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Moms Talk: Is Competition Good for Kids?

There’s a growing trend in kids’ sports and activities that takes competition out of the game. In this week’s Moms Talk we discuss whether a little friendly competition is good for a child’s character.

Every spring when I walk down the aisles of Easter decorations, candy and plastic eggs at my favorite stores, I think about my daughter’s first egg hunt.

I was new to Georgia and had just met a wonderful group of moms and kids. They organized fun activities all the time, and Sailor and I were thrilled when they announced their plans for an egg hunt.

I had fond memories of egg hunts from my childhood, and I was excited for Sailor to have that experience.

We arrived at the park one sunny morning with our dozen filled eggs and pink basket in tow. Some of the more seasoned moms stood up to tell us how the hunt would go. We’d roll the eggs out on the grass, and each child could pick up twelve eggs. Everyone brought twelve eggs, everyone leaves with twelve eggs. Fair! Good!

Right?

Only, one of the best egg hunt memories for me was the excitement of the scramble. Your heart pounding as you run quickly through the yard, eyes darting to every hollow, every low tree branch, searching. Elbowing your sister in the eye and snatching up the prize egg first. I’m just kidding about that last part. Mostly.

I wondered how this fair egg hunt would play out. As it happens, it played out very slowly. The kids wandered aimlessly through the grass, slowly bending to examine an egg and decide if it was worthy to be one of their twelve. I saw kids pick up eggs and then put them back down in lieu of finding another one they liked better. I was baffled.

Later, when we were gathered with our family for Easter lunch, I shared the story of Sailor’s first egg hunt. The family shared my chagrin over the rules, deeming it “the communist egg hunt.” Eleven years later we still joke about it -- usually on Easter Sunday as the kids are flying through my mom’s yard with elbows out and game faces on, searching for the coveted cash egg and trying to fill their baskets to the brim.

My husband and I were raised to compete. In real life nobody’s standing around making sure you get just as many eggs as everyone else. Some people are going to get more, and you can’t throw a fit and smash all your eggs because of that.

Should we be teaching our kids to have a competitive spirit? I think so, and I think some vital life lessons go along with that. It’s important for kids to know they’re not always going to win, even when they’ve tried their hardest. And, they need to know how to be a good loser. Just as importantly, they need to learn how to be a good winner.

What’s your opinion on the new trends in kid competitions, moms? Should everyone leave with the same amount of eggs? Should everyone on the team get a trophy just for participating? What about team sports that don’t keep scores?

Is this okay for young kids, or should we be teaching kids from an early age how to compete and how to win and lose with grace?

Agnes Nutter April 02, 2012 at 03:39 PM
As a mom and aunt of kids widely spaced in ages, I'm a fan of the tiered egg hunt (and similar activities). This means, before the egg hunt, I give my 12-year-old an eagle eye and make sure he knows that the eggs "hidden" in the middle of the front yard or on top of the slide are invisible to him. It also means that, if he wants to find eggs, he may have to figure out how to get on the roof. And the real money eggs are going to be a challenge for anyone to find, but equally accessible to everyone. I hate participation trophies, but they're not a new phenomenon. I had a slew of them growing up for everything from track meets to talent shows, and they never said anything more than "meh." As I got older, I became angry at participation trophies and ribbons, because it was like a way for the parents of the privileged kids who actually won to get out of telling us poor kids how to improve so we could win next time. Yes, I know there was probably no conspiracy to keep the children of single mothers down, but I recall looking at my green ribbon in frustration, thinking, "What am I supposed to do with this? What does this even mean?" Everyone who participates should get a pat on the back, a smile, and the sincere pride of his or her parents. And ice cream afterwards, I'm a big fan of that. But we're not all guaranteed the same number of eggs, or a trophy.
Gail Lane April 02, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Well said, Agnes! I think the word "meh" sums up the whole participation trophy argument quite eloquently! Thanks!
Cheryl Miller April 27, 2012 at 01:26 PM
At my daughter's school they put the kids' names on their 10 eggs (not the same 10 that we contributed) and then hid them all. The contest was still fun because the competitive kids could make it a "race" to see who found all of their eggs first, while the one's who might have been more tenative about competing could take their time knowing that their eggs would wait to be found. The kids that finished earliest were then interested in helping the others find their eggs, so it turned into a very nice sport where the whole fun of it continued until everyone was helping to find the very last egg. A very cute way to combine a little of both approaches, I thought. The girls were also delighted to find what special eggs had been picked out just for them (instead of trying to pick and choose the best ones for themselves) and the boys were mostly just interested in racing and then finding out what was inside them!
sharlyn mendoza February 21, 2013 at 01:37 PM
I think thats the best egg hunt i have heard, good hole some fun and everyones happy .

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