Sunday, 18 March 2012

Competitive (dis)advantage?

Photo credit - wvubush
There is no doubt about it - Monkey is a competitive child. He is stubborn and determined, and he has learned that if he keeps trying at things, he will get better. In many ways, that is a good thing and it means he needs little encouragement to stick at it, certainly in his school work.
Just lately though, his level of competitiveness is getting a bit too hot to handle. He's started showing himself not only to be a bad loser, but the worst sort of competitive personality - a very bad winner indeed. He's intensely annoying if he wins at something and completely rude to the people he's been playing against. He sulks or is incredibly grumpy and frustrated when he loses but if he wins, he calls everyone "loser" and has recently displayed some really inappropriate behaviour which came to a head on Friday night. 

We've told him it's got to stop. He's only 7 and he's still learning but we've told him if he carries on acting like that, he'll lose friends as they won't want to play with him. I don't know about at school, although I never get bad reports about his behaviour from them ever, but there have been a few times when he has come in from playing out in a huff because he's fallen out with the person he's playing with. It's happened enough times for it to be ringing vague alarm bells in my head. 

What else can I do? A tweet on Friday night led to someone sending me the link to this document about children and competition (it's a PDF so you will need Adobe Reader) and it struck me that he's very much between the attributes of the 6-8 year old age group and the 9-12 year old group. I feel it's almost like he doesn't know which age to be emotionally although physically very much a 7 year old. 

I took the opportunity on Saturday afternoon, when we were alone and watching football together to talk about it in a nice calm way. I asked him who was the best sportsperson in the world and he said Lionel Messi. So I asked him how he behaved when Barcelona won a match and when he lost. His answer to them both was the same "Calm". We talked about how annoying it is if someone who wins acts like he has been, and how it's felt if anyone has done it to him. We also talked about how others aren't going to play with someone who wants to win at all costs and won't take defeat at all. I explained that it's OK not to be happy about losing, but it's how you show that to other people. One of the way this manifests itself is for him to blame everyone but himself for losing. I think I got through a bit, because when he was watching for Blackpool's score later on, he was sad when he saw they were losing but not awful and he was just very excited when they went ahead and then won. Fingers crossed it will stick, although I fear it will take me reminding him a few times to get through to him completely. 

On the whole, he is a well-behaved boy but he does have issues with controlling his anger at times, mostly at home, usually when there are both parents around, or just me. I know this is part of that. I'm really hoping it doesn't turn into something bigger, or it fades as he grows up, but I'd love to know your tips, experiences or just get a bit of support. I don't want my boy to end up without friends because of this. And yes, whilst I know this is a "boy thing", I feel I need to teach him to temper his reactions. 

If you have any tips for me, please do leave me a comment and share your experiences. If you don't but find yourself in a similar situation, comment anyway and we can support each other. If you are a parent of an older child who went through this and grew out of it with a little help (or none at all), I'd love to hear your story too. 
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