Unhealthy Rivalry

I once had an encounter with a parent at my daughter, Sarah’s school during one of the Open House events. As soon as I walked into the class with Sarah, I saw this other parent with her son and we exchanged pleasantries. When she found out my daughter’s name, she said in a half joking, half serious tone, pointing a finger at Sarah,
“So, you are the Sarah King, who did not allow my son to win even one prize on prize giving day? You carted away all the prizes!”
I laughed along, thinking it was a joke, until she turned to her son, who was about my Sarah’s age-5 or thereabouts- and said,
“See Sarah, make sure you beat her next time and do not allow her to take all the prizes.” On and on she kept going at the poor little boy, as he made attempts to read from a text that the teacher had opened for him.
Though she had said it in a half joking way, I could see she was serious about the competitive part, by the way she was scolding her son, and other comments she made. The proprietress walked in at that point and addressed her. She told her it was not right to compare children’s abilities in that way. She asked the mother to look at some things her son could now do, which he was not able to do before. She said to us,
“This is why we stopped including positions in the result sheets. Once parents receive the child’s report card, they quickly run to the position column to see what their child’s position was, but would fail to appreciate all the little ways in which the child has improved academically.”

This incident came to my mind when I read the horrifying story of a 12 year old, who had attempted to murder his classmate for beating him to the first position in class, twice. When a child is defeated by another child at a game or exams, he or she would cry or sulk in annoyance, but this particular child did not just do that, he went the extra mile of conceiving, and attempting to murder his classmate.

What would cause this kind of devious thinking in the mind of a young child? What could have given birth to this excessively negative competitive spirit? I do not know what the conditioning at home must have been for this hapless boy or whether he was under pressure from his parents to always come first in class, but it is certain that this child needs some professional intervention to help him process and deal with his own ideas of success or his negative feelings.

As parents, we should also teach our children that it is okay to fail. So many parents regale their children with stories of how they always took first in school, how they excelled academically and won all the prizes available, how the other child who came first does not have two heads, and how they must not allow any other child to beat them to first position in class, and on and one they go, until that little spark of evil genius, which we all have and can exercise, if not put under control, grows into a hydra headed green-eyed monster and manifests itself in loads of unpleasant ways. All these pressure to be number one at all times, is…

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