Competition is believed to promote high performance and productivity. It’s believed to increase efficiency, enhance enjoyment and enthusiasm. Then again, competition tends to degenerate. It makes people lie, cheat, and act disrespectfully toward others.
In parenting it’s the parents’ job to prepare their children for the realities of life. Some parents pit one child against the other in order to gain better performance with statements like “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” I suspect a little bit of jealousy and rivalry between siblings is formed from these words and can bring out the worst in people as they become adults. Competition as a fact of modern life, can promote anxiety, damage self-esteem and performance, and lead to disengagement. Competition can be destructive and is a toxic way to raise children.
Cooperation, on the other hand is a prerequisite for excellence in most endeavors but it’s hard to see that with the way we live our lives today. The notion that somebody’s got to win and somebody’s got to lose is prevalent. In times past, women worked together to birth babies, sew quilts and face the perils of the world. Men worked together to raise barns and harvest crops and all members of households were expected to work together to make life work and encouraged all to do their personal best. Community was important.
Which works better, competition or cooperation? The answer, according to Perry W. Buffington, Ph.D.,“without equivocation, is cooperation.” In a series of studies over a five-year period, he looked at how children ages 9 to 14 performed shooting free throws in three situations: when one player was pitted against another (direct competition); when two players worked together to get the highest combined score (cooperation); and when two players joined forces to try to score more than another pair (cooperation combined with competition). The cooperative players won hands down. According to Dr. Johnson, "More students feel good about themselves as learners when they cooperate. Their self-esteem goes up. They have a better sense of community, belonging, and acceptance.
David Johnson, a professor emeritus of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota, suggested one way to change the culture around winning is to encourage children to recognize excellence and effort in others and to give shout-outs when he or she sees both. That way, parents will be fostering a spirit of cooperation even in the midst of competition. By taking the emphasis off winning and putting it on mastery, the individual, the team, the classroom, the country, and the world will grow in the process.
Still, many organizations, businesses, educational systems, and most parents continue to encourage competition. Most don’t realizes that competition may be costing billions of dollars in sales and overall decreases in human achievement. According to Dr. Johnson. “If competition brings out the "beast" in us, then research demonstrates that cooperation surely brings out the "best" in us.”
Cooperative business people have higher salaries. Cooperative students have higher grade point averages. Personnel directors who work together have fewer job vacancies to fill. And cooperation increases creativity. People learn best when they work cooperatively with each other. Once people experience cooperation, they find out that it's a better, even easier way."
However, cooperation is not being systematically taught in schools. Children who learn cooperation at an early age carry it with them as they mature. This makes them better spouses, parents and workers. Cooperation has an impact on individuals working together in most professions. It make leadership easier and allows everyone to participate actively without fear of losing out. It improves worker's perception of the work environment. In addition, researchers found the cooperative individuals were better adjusted psychologically and physically healthier than their competitive colleagues.
Finally, it is projected that jobs of the future will require cooperation and collaboration. Will we well ready?
What’s A Person To Do?
1. As a parent, strive to accentuate the positives. One child might be outstanding at football, another not so much. However, you still need to turn up and cheer from the sideline for each child.
2. Remember, Siblings are forever. Refuse to pit one against the other.
3. Encourage each child to do his or her personal best.
4. Use cooperative problem-solving tools like brainstorming and group goal setting.
5. Help other people. It facilitates cooperation.
6.Reinforce team effort. When the team does well, the entire group is rewarded.