Thursday, September 3, 2009

Competitive Streak

My 5 year old got in a fight today at our house during a play-date because he was losing a game. I can't say that I'm all that surprised; I thought this might be coming. But, I am surprised that I am dealing with this now - I mean he's 5. Just last year he was not all that good at anything; and now all of the sudden he is good at everything and feels that he should always win. Today, an older boy was beating him at Wii boxing and my son lost control. I wasn't in the room to see the conflict, but after piecing together the story from different eye-witness accounts, it seems that my son said some mean things when he went on a losing streak and then took the boxing to real life and hit the other boy. I'm appalled at my son's competitive streak and this aggressive side that has recently come out; and I'm terrified of becoming the mom with the sore loser kid who is a jerk.

I wasn't surprised by my son's behavior because I know where he came from. His father was "that kid" and my mother-in-law was that horrified mom. I guess competitive streaks are genetic. In sports as a kid my husband was no stranger to fouls and yellow cards. He was the kid who never struck out without throwing a bat or cursing, he shoved on the basketball court, and I've seen him clear a bench in soccer for a mid-field brawl. You get the point: my husband was a jerk as a kid. These memories of my husband when he was younger are like watching a preview to a "coming soon" movie starring my son. Like his father, my son has become very athletic and very competitive. Most days I no longer consider my husband a jerk, so there is hope for my son. But it is really hard to watch certain traits appear in our kids because we can see ourselves; the good, the bad, and today, the ugly.

I am the complete opposite of my husband. I don't have a competitive bone in my body and I could care less if I lose. I've gracefully accepted my third place spot in our family for all competitions and I know when my younger son finds his coordination, I won't even be on the podium. I was hoping that my older son would be evened out by his two parents, but I had a clue when he wouldn't accept losing in games of chance like Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders that he would be competitive just like his father. I've always told my son, that you can't always be the winner, but more recently he has come back at me with "you can if you are the best". I've tried giving him the line "winning isn't everything, its how you play the game" only to get his response of "why would I want to play if I didn't win". I can see his point; I've heard this argued by his father before. But the fact is, he is going to lose sometimes; he already has. Somehow he has to learn to control that aggressive competitive energy when he is losing. Although I want to raise "winners", I need to also raise mature losers. Maybe my husband, with all of his competitive experience, should be taking the reigns on this lesson?

My husband had a talk with my son tonight that went something like "don't be a jerk, I was a jerk and no one liked me". Somehow, I don't think that conversation is going to be the catalyst for change. My kids worship their father and I don't think they believe he was ever a jerk or that no one liked him. For now my son will be without Wii or any other video or computer game that he loves. Having the opportunity just to participate is going to have to be his reward and incentive for dealing appropriately with any losses. And then maybe he will get the message that sometimes it is just fun to play the game - its better than not playing at all. Hopefully my younger son will be wired more like me, but judging by his recent temper tantrum when losing a simple race down the driveway, I think I'm in for more trouble.

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