After the game I asked my nephew who was playing in one of the teams, "did you enjoy the game?" to which he replied with a sad face and spout, "we lost".
That didn't answer my question. Rather the boy's expression baffled me. The game just didn't matter to him, winning or losing did. And how. The nine year old looked heart broken.
We have done it to our children; we have done it to ourselves. Competition is the name of the game, and we play it in everything we do. Better career, bigger house, slimmer waist, smarter kid… the list just doesn't end. And as if this wasn't enough, we drag our children into the rat race even before they can spell or comprehend the word competition. Ask your child's coach and he'll tell you how each child's parents just focus on the team's performance, some with blatant openness, some with passive aggression and yet others with modest undertone yet a firm message – how many wins.
It's a game: enjoy playing it."Winning is important to children, how can I not be bothered about it", says a mom. Well ma'am you are right. Winning is important to our children because we have made it important. We have kept winning as the ultimate goal for very game. The day we change our priorities, our children will change their attitude towards the game.
How do we do it?Yeah, the whole "enjoy the game, don't be bothered about winning" sounds good, but is there a practical way of doing it.
Why not? Here are a few thoughts. I'm sure you'll be able to improvise and come with many more.
Attach it to a social cause:
Play the game as a fundraiser for a social cause. Let the children be involved in the process. This way they will not only learn to be sensitive and empathetic to the surroundings or the society, but it'll also take the pressure off children's heads helping them enjoy the game.
Make it a social event:
This can be done for neighborhood games whether it's for a club or just a one-time match. If the match is clubbed with some holiday or social event, the focus from winning can be taken off.
Make teams meet up often in which the coach can, in one way or the other, re-emphasize the importance of playing the match versus winning it. Parents can find ways to constantly tell children all the things they can learn by just playing the game like teamwork, hard work etc.
Most importantly, we as grown ups will need to change our conduct to set the right example in front of the kids. So maybe next time instead of telling your child to get better grades, you might want to tell her to concentrate on studies, get the learning right, and good grades will just be the by-product. Similarly we need to tell our children to play for the fun of it, a victory will just be the by-product.