Pokémon Go Will Save Us?

Are you competitive? Is your child?

I learned about competition when I joined my neighborhood swim team when I was in elementary school. It only took one meet for me to recognize that if I was going to enjoy being on the team I needed to be competitive. The transition from not being aware of the benefits of being competitive to understanding them was quick. By the next meet, I was in it to win it. I was going to swim my fastest, I wanted to win!

My oldest son has also embraced his competitive side. He enjoys sports and is always looking to try something new to test his skills and capabilities. He is passionate about winning and struggles with defeat.  I have questioned why we place such a high value on competition based on seeing the highs and lows my son has experienced, and I have in competitive situations.

I came across the documentary, I Am, several years ago thanks to Oprah.  Tom Shadyac was exploring happiness after experiencing great success (winning!) but not feeling happy. He invited scientists and other subject matter experts to explore the topic with him and the output was the documentary. One idea that emerged was that the long-term survival of species (ants, for example) depended largely on cooperation. In these species cooperation is highly valued and competition has low/no value. Being a competitive ant doesn’t serve the colony well. It would in fact, be counter to a colony’s survival. Humans still have a ways to go. Our children aspire to be elite athletics, movie starts, singer or someone ‘famous.’ Competition to be number 1 is still fierce, but what if cooperation became more highly valued and easy (or easier) to achieve?

My oldest son loves Pokémon Go. It’s become something he and I have connected over. We take walks together so he can play, and I play Pokémon Go when I travel so he and I can stay connected. He asked me to take him to a local park that is known for having lots of Pokémon. When we got to the park, I was amazed. There were literally hundreds of people–mainly kids but also teens and adults, of all shapes and sizes, colors and creeds–all working together to catch Pokémon. Pokémon present themselves to you on your device, if you and other Pokémon players are in the same location, it presents the same Pokémon to all, not a select few. So instead of people fighting over who is going to catch the Pokémon, everyone has an equal chance. It then becomes a matter of what technique you use (candy, great ball, ultimate ball, etc.) to catch the Pokémon. In the park, not only were the players sharing information about where the Pokémon were that they were finding, but what techniques they were using to catch the Pokémon so others could catch them to. It was cooperation at it’s finest. Observing everyone working together was really inspiring. While I was reluctant to embrace Pokémon Go when it first launched based on some of the initial press the game was getting, I’ve become a fan. And after seeing what I did at the park, I’m an even bigger fan. If something like this game can bring people together, just think of the possibilities for the human race.

Where have you seen people working together in an unexpected place? Where have you, or your child, found cooperation outdo competition?

Competition for 1

With the start of the summer Olympics, I’m reminded how much value we place on competition.

My sons are taking lessons this summer to help strengthen their swimming skills. My oldest shared how nervous he was prior to the first lesson. “Mom, what if I don’t do well and they send me back to the beginners class with the little kids?” I could understand his anxiety, he hadn’t really swam much since the prior summer and needed to re-acclimate himself with being in the pool. His stress waned once he started swimming and he did well enough to stay in the advance class. He wasn’t the most advanced and needed instruction from his teacher on several of the strokes, but he listened and was able to do what his teacher asked.

Before a lesson several weeks later my son once again expressed his concern. “Mom, I’m not as good as the other kids. They’re all better than I am.” I understood how he could feel this way, but thought he might be looking at this all wrong. “This isn’t a competition,” I said, “the only one you are competing with here is yourself. Instead of comparing how good you are against the other swimmers, compare yourself to how you did last week. Did you improve on any of your skills? Were you able to do something better than you did before?” I could tell I had got him thinking. “Thanks, Mom,” he said and headed off to get into the pool.

I wasn’t sure if I had really gotten through to him, or if he was saying thanks to end the conversation. 🙂 Following the lesson we were walking back home when he said, “Mom, I improved on some things today!” He was very excited, and I was too — he actually had taken what I’d said to heart. He shared how he had improved on his kick and how we’d learned how to turn his body so he could stroke and kick at the same time. He was very proud of what he had done, and so was I.

There is much competition in the world. It’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. We learn this as a child and often cling to it as an adult as a measure of our worth. Talking to my son about this made me rethink how I compare myself to others., and that life really is a competition for one.

How do you deal with competition? How are you helping your child?

 

Parenting is a Team Sport

Have you ever felt like parenting is a competition?

It’s a topic I often cover when speaking to parenting groups–being a parent can feel like many things including a rite of passage to see how we (as parents) can out do each other, or how our kids can. It starts when our child is very young — whose sleeping better through the night, eating better, rolling over first, standing up, walking, etc. We are proud of our child hitting a developmental milestone, and want to believe their success is largely due to our parenting skills, but in reality it is more a mixture of our child’s innate capabilities and disposition, which may or may not have been influenced by us.

While we may feel like competition is only between other parents, a topic that isn’t often spoken of is competition between the parents themselves. Competition between parents can be just as common, and is not limited to couples who are divorced. Competition between a couple can be more subtle in how it shows up: a child feels they can confide in one parent more than they can another and the parent who is left out feels sadness the child doesn’t have (or maybe want) to have the same relationship with them, or competition can arise when one parent connects/relates easily with their child, while the other struggles. There are many different ways the feeling of competition can arise, but parenting is not a competition; it’s about doing what’s right for our child, not us. This can be hard to keep front and center when we have our competitive juices flowing.

My husband took our oldest to his flag football game over the weekend. My younger son and I were going to meet them there closer to game time and were just about to head out the door when my husband called and said, “Don’t go anywhere, we’re coming home.” When they got home I asked what happened. I found out that our son was getting frustrated with what the coach was asking him to do. He was struggling to do the practice drill and was showing his frustration. Instead of being respectful to the coach and listening to what the coach was saying, he was getting more and more angry, and talking back. My husband told my son to calm down and be respectful, or we’re going home. My son jumped at the chance and said, “Fine, let’s go home.” I could tell by the look in my husband’s eyes when he told me that he hadn’t thought his threat would turn out the way it did. He had thought our son would calm down, and listen to the coach, because he wanted to play in the game. But he was stuck, like many of us when we may threats and are kids call us on it (anyone have to leave the restaurant or theatre — places you wanted to go, and then your child starts misbehaving or act up, and you threaten you’ll leave if they don’t calm down and they say basically indicate they never wanted to be there in the first place? Ugh!). I said, “Oh no, you are going to the game. That’s not fair to your team, but you’re not playing. You have to earn the right to play and you lost that right in the way you acted.  You are going to go there and support them — you are going to be their #1 cheerleader today, and you’re going to apologize to the coach for your behavior.” My son looked at me like he couldn’t believe this hadn’t happened earlier, and said, “Okay.” We got in the car and went to the field. He didn’t play, he did cheer and he apologized to the coach — not once, but twice. My hope was that he would understand you can never walk away when things get tough, you can’t let your actions let down a larger group (your team), and there are consequences, sometimes uncomfortable ones like apologizing to a coach, when you behave a certain way.

Later that night my husband and I were talking about what happened. Without discussing it, we easily could have been filed this incident in the competition file, where one parent did the “right” thing and the other did the “wrong” thing (one is a better parent than the other — see how easy situations can have that competitive feel?)…but that’s not the way we viewed it. Instead, one of us experienced, with the best intentions, a misstep and the other helped them recover. We are a team, and need each other’s help. Parenting is a team sport, not an individual one. We have certainly had scenarios where my husband helped bail me out of a misfired threat. We learn each time we experience this together, and allow ourselves the chance to discuss, reflect, and think about how we would handle the situation differently in the future. We get better together.

Have you ever felt like you were competing with another parent or your spouse? How do you parent as a team, versus as an individual?

Go Team!

Read This!

I was fortunate enough to see a family member participate in a city-wide reading competition. I had never heard of a reading competition before. I thought perhaps it had to do speed reading, but learned it had nothing to do with that at all. Instead, the competition was based on 4th and 5th graders who were given a list of 10 books to read. They then participated in competitions where they were asked a series of questions (some multiple choice, true/false or short answer) that tested the kids knowledge and comprehension of the books.

It was one of the best competitions I’ve ever seen. There were several things I really liked about it. First, the books the kids had to read were all educational: they taught the kids about the world, appreciation for different cultures and experiences. Second, the teams had to work closely together to come up with their answers. It was similar to watching a team sport where everyone needs each other to be successful. Third, the supporters: parents, classmates and family members (such as myself), were rooting for all of the kids — it was impossible not to. These kids had learned so much and were so eager to work as a team. Yes, you may have wanted your child (or family member) team to come out on top, but it was clear that all of these kids had and were accomplishing something great regardless who the “winner” was. When the winner was named, it was a non-event. It seemed like the best part (the actual competition) was over, and this was an after-thought. I’ve never experienced anything like it, but certainly hope to again.

In an age where competition is king, it gives me hope that there are competitions like this one. The kids learned, they had fun and even got to showcase their talents on a big (public) stage with people rooting them on.

What competitions has your child participated in that seemed different from the rest? What brings the best out in your child?

A Little Competition

I was recently having coffee with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while and we were getting caught up on what was going on with our kids. Our local team is in the NFL Playoffs and the city has football fever. It prompted us to discuss our boys and athletics. She shared her son was in soccer and was amazed how quickly kids embrace being competitive. She commented that she and her husband had gotten caught up in cheering him on and wanting him to do well. Her comments resonated with me, as I’m sure they would with most parents.

When I speak to parenting groups I often talk about competition as part of the discussion. Remember when your child was born and you had them around other children their age?  if you are like most of us, you probably compared notes on where your child is with their developmental milestones. There was probably a conversation that mentioned something to the effect of: my child is ________ (fill in the blank: sleeping through the night, pulling themselves up, walking, eating solid food, never (or rarely) fusses, etc.). While the conversation isn’t about a sport, it is about how quickly or gracefully your child is progressing, and can start to feel as though your ability to parent is dependent on how quickly your child reaches a milestone. It can create great anxiety for a parent, particularly a new one. Just learning to care for the daily needs of your child, and taking care of yourself can be overwhelming, you don’t come into parenting thinking “I can’t wait to start competing with other parents!” None of us do.

As I talk to parenting groups I mention competition so the participants are aware that this feeling is normal and starts much earlier than many think. It also provides a great opportunity for each of us, as parents, to really understand how we view competition and what we want to teach our children about competition.  Do you thrive to compete and win individually? Do you prefer to collaborate and win as a team? Will you do anything not to compete? How much of your identity is associated with performance? What role does competition play into your “success” (as a person, or parent)?

Both of our sons play soccer in a non-competitive soccer league. We chose this league for a few reasons: the league had a good reputation and large membership (our thinking was: they must be on to something), and my husband and I needed to get clarity for ourselves on the role competition played in our own identities and how much we wanted it to play into our children’s.  I swam on a swim team as a child and learned that if I worked hard, I could win. I also learned that if I worked hard, the results would be better than if I didn’t. The second lesson was a much more valuable lesson for me as an adult. My husband ran on a cross country team. He learned that if he worked hard, his endurance to run long distances surpassed his expectations, sometimes resulting in him winning the competition. He also learned that sticking to something pays off in the long run, a valued lesson he’s leveraged as an adult.

Our boys view soccer in completely different ways. Our oldest wants to score goals and win games. My husband and I have always reiterated to our boys that they are in soccer to learn how to play and have fun, we don’t care if they score many goals or none at all. Our oldest has heard us say this numerous times, but continues to want to win. It’s more than that though, he wants to demonstrate that his hard work translates into successful results. We can certainly understand this desire, but continue to work with him on the dangers of this thinking. Having successful results is not always possible, no matter how well you prepare. It can be a slipper slope to feeling negatively about yourself and your capabilities when you aren’t able to achieve or maintain the results you desire or expect. Our youngest son could care less about being competitive. In fact, we’ve considered taking him out of soccer a few times, because he seems more interested in laughing and having fun than in learning to play. He continues to play because it keeps him active and he is having fun (that was one of the reason we said they were in soccer class after all).

As a parent it is easy to engage in the competition of parenting, the key is noticing it’s going on, and being clear on the role it plays in your life today and the role you want it to play in your child’s.

How does parenting feel like a competition? Do you feel like you’re competing with other parents, or is your child competing with other children, or both? What role do you want competition to play in your child’s life? What lesson(s) do you hope they will take or learn from it?