There are so many complaints, articles, and memes about kids these days being raised to believe they are entitled to win everything set before them. There are participation prizes on par with 1st place trophies. You don’t even have to compete to win a prize, you just have to show up. As the arguments state, winning doesn’t mean anything when all the kids are winners. Kids are being babied as to not upset their delicate emotional state, and parents are fighting for this. As my Mom would sarcastically say, mimicking these type of parents, “Oh, look! He farted! Look at how great he farted! Wow! He’s a winner! Give him a prize!”
Certainly, some level of competition is healthy. That’s just life. Some things will be handed to you if you just show up, and others will require a lot of work.
I think the problem with competition lies in losing. Parents, coaches, and peers can be really harsh and lead the child to believe that if they didn’t get a prize, they lost. They’re a loser. They’re loved less. They screwed up. They are bad performers. And so on. Competition is healthy so long as we’re teaching kids to lose gracefully.
Perfectionism is really damaging to children (and adults!). It causes anxiety, anger and lashing out, procrastination of tasks in which you feel you might fail or spending your time focused on the little details to the point where other tasks get pushed back, and even self-harm if the child feels they aren’t measuring up and need to be punished.
It’s delicate. I wonder how we can teach children and ourselves that losing is okay, and is actually expected throughout life. Sometimes, you’ll lose that game, or you’ll get a bad grade, or you won’t get that job, or you won’t get that date and it will be okay. You will survive this failure and you will go on to win at other things. You don’t need a participation prize.
In life, there is no prize for just being present; but life is about being present, not getting a prize.