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Winning and Losing Part of Life

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Endless types of competition seem to dominate our world today. Last weekend, the Super Bowl competition to determine the best professional football team dominated our conversations, televisions, consumer outlets and social events, as did the competition to decide which Super Bowl commercial was the best.

Tuesday, we held elections to determine who would represent us on our school boards, and the results of those elections determined winners and losers. The outcome of the election in November resulted in winners and losers.

Soon, the college basketball championships will be played. To many, many folks, words like Sweet 16, Elite Eight, Final Four will be important, and the winners and losers will matter. Coaches from the most prestigious universities will be paid bonuses based on winning and losing.

Yet, the so-called experts express concern about too much competition for our children. In the sports for our youngest children, trophies are given to every child who participates, because some expert has determined it might hurt some child’s feelings if the young athlete loses. The old game of musical chairs has been banned in places because there are losers even in such an innocuous game, and people get excluded.

So, are we going to celebrate competition or outlaw it? By giving trophies to everyone, we are trying to eliminate winning and losing, yet we celebrate the winner of the presidential election and the Super Bowl. In reality the people who are eliminating the competition in musical chairs probably won the competition in the job interview that put them in the position of authority to eliminate competition.

It all seems so ridiculous. We decide to eliminate dodgeball because someone might get hurt, but we celebrate football, which is known for causing head injuries, and the ultimate success in football – based on winning and losing – allows people to make a whole lot of money. There is no Super Bowl of Dodgeball, and no way to make any money at it, so maybe that’s the difference. There are, however, clear winners and losers in the game.

We can’t eliminate competition. We can’t shield our children from ever losing. We can’t guarantee they will never get hurt, physically or emotionally. Nor should we.

Winning and losing teach our children to be good sports, to overcome adversity, to struggle to improve, all important skills our children must learn. Giving them false measures of success demeans the true success we want for them. Children know the difference between receiving a participation trophy and winning a race or a spelling bee. They know the difference between first and second place.

Parents, educators and others involved in a child’s life must endeavor to give children the proper balance. Striving to be the best is important. Always placing first is not so important. The adults must help children keep things in perspective. Winning should not overshadow the other important life lessons. In the grand scheme of things, that’s what parents are supposed to do.

Kids must learn to compete – and learn to compete in a healthy way. Eliminating competition or trying to engineer similar outcomes for everyone will not work. Learning to handle competition, both winning and losing, will serve our children well. After all, competition is not evil; it’s part of life.

Our job is to help our children to become strong and confident enough to handle the competition and the wins and losses that accompany it. Our job is to make sure our children have the necessary values so they will compete fairly and honorably. Our job is not to eliminate competition. Our job is to teach our children to aim high.

Our job is not to eliminate musical chairs.

Common Sense appears on Saturdays. Contact the Ryans at ryan@abqjournal.com.<br>

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