This morning, as we often do, Sausage and I were watching Peppa Pig over breakfast. It was the episode where Peppa has a Sports Day at her nursery, and Daddy Pig said something that really got me thinking:
It’s not the winning that counts, but the taking part.
Now, I may come across a bit Tiger Mom here, but I think that is utter rubbish. I understand the sentiment of the statement, and I agree that taking part is important, but what are we teaching our kids if we tell them that they don’t have to reach for the sky, that they don’t have to be all they can be? Shouldn’t we at least be telling them to try to win? And if we don’t encourage them to compete, aren’t we giving the message that we don’t think that they can?
My parents taught me that if you’re taking part, you should be doing everything you can to win and I’ll admit, I’m an extremely competitive person. I’ve been known to get the serious hump when losing at Trivial Pursuit, and these days, Husband and I don’t play so much Scrabble as he tends to beat me and I fear for our relationship! I once managed to alienate a whole room full of people by goading, heckling and victory dancing during a ‘friendly’ game of Buzz on the PS2 (which I went on to win, by a country mile, by the way). So maybe my level of competitiveness isn’t great, but I’d never be happy with mediocrity, and I don’t want my child to be either.
When I was 14, I played netball for a local womens team, and I loved it. It was fast, aggressive and highly competitive, to a degree that I would not have found in a team of my peers. And my parents encouraged me, told me I could hold my own, and stood on the sidelines and cheered me on, even patched me up when I got an inevitable knock. But they always send me back on to the court. And when I scored a goal, or made a good pass, I was as proud as punch, even more so as I was technically playing out of my league. Why would we not want our kids to feel this kind of accomplishment?
On the flip side, I know the argument is there for not letting our kids feel the disappointment of failure and that when we pit them against each other in things like sports days, there has to be a loser, but you know what? Failure is part of life. Everyone has to fail sometimes, and I would much rather teach my kid from a young age that there is no shame in trying and failing, only shame in not trying, or not trying to win, in the first place. I’ll also make sure I teach her to be a far more gracious loser than her Mother!
If we carry on the way we’re going, we’re going to have no sporting heroes, no scientific masterminds, no cure for cancer, as we’ll be too afraid to achieve anything, in case it makes someone else feel bad when we beat them. Where will the world be if we teach our kids that it’s okay to just plod along, not achieving greatness, as long as you’ve shown face, that’s enough?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that for my child’s future. So I’ll push, I’ll encourage and I’ll tell her to try to win. Because yes, taking part is important, but winning is so much better!