Stoke the Fires of Competition!
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of
trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened,
vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved!”
I have witnessed few things dumber in my lifetime than allowing children to compete-in anything—and not keep score. I don’t know which premise is worse. The notion that these kids leave the playing field not knowing the score and who won? Or the notion that sparing children the experience of losing is going to irreparably damage their delicate self-esteems. I would argue that much of our current societal and cultural unrest is due in large part to adults brought up believing that their emotional comfort is life’s highest calling.
Life is little more than uninterrupted competition. Survival and success hinge upon our ability to meet and overcome obstacles. Parents who coddle and protect their children from the pains of loss are merely postponing the agonies of defeat and the inherent life lessons so crucial to becoming a resilient and thriving adult. Scraped knees and bloody noses are not to be avoided-but welcomed. Crushing defeats only sour the spirit if allowed to stand uncontested. There’s a reason that a knife’s blade is dragged across a hard stone to become razor sharp. Success, victory, and achievement are rarely found in the boring confines of our comfort zones. The struggle is to be embraced—not avoided.
We need to instill a winning attitude: A drive for excellence and victory. Instilling this winning attitude is one of the goals of a good parent. When a child learns that given the right attitude they can succeed at whatever they set their hearts and mind to, it can have an overwhelmingly positive impact on their self-esteem and on their future. Without healthy competition the concept of a winning attitude doesn’t exist and the incredible potential within our children is lost. Many parents have difficulty embracing the concept that protecting and coddling their children is merely training them to be future victims and under-achievers.
In 1941, a much different America awoke to the news that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor and that we now faced global evil of unprecedented scale. Overnight-millions of American teenagers stood up and volunteered for a World War that would eventually kill nearly 100 million people. Boys and girls barely out of high school would soon become soldiers. In an instant, the innocence of their youth was forever extinguished on the battlefields of Normandy and Iwo Jima. The passage of time would look back on this generation of teenage warriors as “The Greatest Generation.” I would also add that they were raised by parents who unleashed them early and let life teach them hard but valuable lessons at a young age. There was no coddling nor babying of this generation.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of
comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our proudest moments and greatest memories come courtesy of overcoming crushing defeats, agonizing failures, and heartbreaking losses. Our lives are defined by how we respond to being knocked down and defeated than by any victories enjoyed. As a father, watching my kids go through any pain or hardship is never an easy or pleasant task. Their pain is my pain and sometimes the greatest challenge is not to step in and alleviate their discomfort but rather step back and watch them confront life on their terms-knowing that pain and hardship is simply part of a process to becoming a confident and high-achieving adult. In my heart I have come to believe that sometimes the highest expression of love is found in what we are unwilling to do on their behalf.