Do competitions help or hurt kids?


Competition is a natural thing with kids. We can all relate to our siblings competing for that 1 toy that we all wanted at the same time. Or how about wanting to secretly be the teacher’s favorite student? When competing is done without undue pressure, and with the support of the family/mentor, it can really help children gain valuable lessons in the process.

Competing through Adversity

Competing through adversity

Interestingly, adverse socio-economic conditions or personal failures have propelled many people to soar to great heights – whether it is Abraham Lincoln, Oprah Winfrey, Jim Carey, Andrew Carnegie, or Albert Einstein. This is more of a “survival of the fittest” mentality (‘Panic Zone’), where our adrenaline gets us through the next moment alive! In many of these cases, life’s circumstances propelled them to become passionate about real problems that they needed to solve immediately for their own survival. In the process they gained some valuable insights that fueled them to believe in their strengths and use them to even greater purposes!

The ‘Have it All’ Syndrome  

'Have it All' Syndrome

We live in a world of opposites and huge income disparities. The opposite of the ‘Panic Zone’ are children who suffer from the ‘Have it all Syndrome”.  There are so many occasions to load them up – Birthdays, Tooth Fairy days, Halloween, Christmas, Prom, etc… I call this the (Comfort Zone)! The kids in the ‘Comfort Zone’ have a safe, easy, stable, secured, bored, unchallenged & comfortable life because their parents have worked hard to wipe out all the struggles of survival for them!

We always want to raise the standard of living for our kids, but how do we keep them at their creative best?

Find the Middle pathFinding the middle path

There is one!!! We call it the ‘Stretch Zone’! In this zone, kids are excited, challenged, alive, expectant, anticipating, willing to take risks and are exhilarated. No, I am not asking you to live in Disneyland or Universal Studios for the rest of your lives! We can keep our kids in the Stretch zone by teaching them to compete!

Competing Pros & Cons

Teaching our kids to compete is both an art and a science, and it needs mentorship. Whether from the family, school, or the community – we can all support our children and inspire them to make a difference.

Gaining from the Participation:Gaining from participation

Children learn about creative thinking, goal setting, time management, rapid learning on the go to keep up with their peers,  showing up and being consistent, giving their best effort, team work, learning to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Building prototypes introduces them to problem solving, they learn to articulate their creations/ideas with family and friends and gain confidence in them selves.

What if they lose?

When they don’t win, they gain a different set of learning experiences. Disappointments are not an end in themselves. Winning and losing are part of life, and it’s a good idea to get used toWhat if they Lose? it early on.  Making them understand through personal experience that most people who are good at something have failed many times before they got really good at it, will give them the hope and confidence that even though it is difficult to accept failure, they are on the right path and will achieve their goals with perseverance and practice! Losing is not the opposite of Winning but a part of it, as it will fuel them to try harder and do better to get to their coveted goal! They will understand that the opposite of winning is ‘giving up’ and it takes determination to keep up the effort for as along as it takes. And whey they finally achieve their goal, they will feel so good about themselves!

Take it up a Notch. Make it a mindsetTake it up a notch! Make it a mindset…

When they see Winning as non-negotiable, their learning deepens even further. It can potentially lead to project-based learning with the help of mentors. Kids can gather data on past winning entries, and gauge it against their own ideas, to gain valuable insights from them. They can figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are in relation to winners, not to improve on their weaknesses; rather, they can leverage their own strengths to their advantage to win.  This is not a far-fetched idea, because people have won Jeopardy by strategically preparing for it, much like a physical sport! Gaining the ‘Olympic championship’ mindset in everything they do, will make kids take the hard work required to win much more seriously!

Is there a downside?bullying

Yes.  Unless we inculcate Compassion first , Competing next, children with an extremely competitive mentality can become selfish, arrogant, egotistical, non trusting, inconsidcyberscooty-kids-smilingerate with an attitude of ‘entitlement’.  I have seen this growing up in a developing country where kids will cry incessantly if they lost a point on their exam. However, when they go on a field trip to a nearby slum to practice compassion through service, they could care less. It is not uncommon for schools to give emphasis on Grades over grooming good humans. The onus is on families to fill children’s heart with empathy, compassion and kindness which becomes the strong foundation for their unlimited growth.

 

 

drawing-smallmanhappyrunningHow to get Ideas?

Go to fun and activity-filled educational events. Here are a few events that happen on a regular basis –

  1. The upcoming Math Fair through the Mind Research Institute is a great opportunity to see innovative projects created by kids for kids! This free, family-fun event will excite young minds as they interact with mathematically-themed activities, games, exhibits and performances. Perfect for all ages, Math Fair visitors will experience the beauty and power of mathematics while problem-solving. http://www.mindresearch.org/mathfair/
  2. Get involved with StemConnector.org and find creative ways to use their resources – http://www.stemconnector.org/state#PA
  3. Visit the Maker Faires in your local area – http://makerfaire.com/map/. They are fascinating treasure houses of learning!
  4. Make reading time with books like ‘Pay It Forward Kids – Small Acts Big Change’ by Nancy Runstedler,  ‘SmartCuts’  by Shane Snow, ‘Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Change’ by Garth Sundem.
  5. Attend the STEM Based Worlds at the http://younginnovatorsfair.com/
  6. Find ways to engage kids with Asoka Youth https://www.youthventure.org/

 

award-ribbon-remixHere are various STEM & Other Competitions to keep your kids motivated and challenged! 

Preparing for a competition doesn’t need expensive training or resources. It can be done through so many different channels that are absolutely FREE!

USA Students Competitions in STEM & ELA

Web Address

Start-Finish

Age/Grade

Students Idea for a better America

http://www.nmoe.org/students/siba.htm

Anytime

K-12

Young Inventor’s Challenge

http://www.chitagfair.com/young-inventor-challenge/

 Ends Nov1

Ages 6-18

Mind Research Institute National k-12 Math Gameathon Contest

http://www.mindresearch.org/gameathon/

Warren Buffet – Young Entreprenuer Contest

http://smckids.com/learnandearn/contest

Oct

7 to 14

Record of the Future Challenge

http://futurerecords.guinnessworldrecords.com/about-the-contest

KAges 7-12

Lego Challenge

http://www.juniorfirstlegoleague.org/2015-waste-wise-challenge

K-12

Epal Smithsonian Challenge

http://challenges.epals.com/inventit2015/winners/

K-12

White House Science Fair

https://www.whitehouse.gov/science-fair

Mar/year

K-12

PBS Kids Writing Contest

http://pbskids.org/writerscontest/contest-hub#enter-contest

K-12

Center for the book in the Library Congress – Writing contest

http://www.read.gov/letters/

Grades 4-12

America’s Young artist contest

http://www.nmoe.org/gallery_art/kickoff.html

K-12

Healthy Habits Contest

http://getactivewithmls.com/mlscontest

ages 7-14

Kids as Authors Writing contest

http://www.scholastic.com/bookfairs/articles/kids-are-authors-contest-rules

K-12

Stone Soup Writing

http://www.stonesoup.com/stone-soup-contributor-guideline/

Ages <13

Time for kids Writing

http://www.timeforkids.com/news/tfk-kid-reporter-contest/30326

Ages <12

Creative Kids Magazine

http://www.ckmagazine.org/about-ck/

Ages 8-16

Memory Championship

http://www.usamemorychampionship.com/faqs/

Ages >12

 Helicopter2050 Challenge http://helicopter2050.com/?opt=contest-about  Ages 9-16

Scholastic Writing contest

http://www.artandwriting.org/

Grades 7-12

Rubberband Invention Contest

http://rubberbandcontest.org/

Grades 5-8

Discovery Channel Young scientist challenge

http://www.youngscientistchallenge.com/

Grades 5-8

Craftsman NSTA Young Inventors Award Program

http://www.nsta.org/about/competitions.aspx

Grades 6-12

Ecybermission Competition

https://www.ecybermission.com/

Grades 6-12

Verizon App Challenge

http://appchallenge.tsaweb.org/

Grades 6-12

STEM Challenge

http://www.stemchallenge.org/stem/#/home

Grades 6-12

Rocketary contest

http://www.rocketcontest.org/

Grades 7-12

Future City Regional Competition

http://futurecity.org/

Grades 6-12

Google Sciene Fair

https://www.googlesciencefair.com/en/

Ages 13-18

 Infy Makers – Infosys Foundation USA  http://www.infymakers.com/  K-12 and beyond

Intel International Science and Engineering Fair

http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/education/competitions/international-science-and-engineering-fair.html

High School

Chistopher Columbus Awards

http://www.christophercolumbusawards.com/

Lemelson Invent Teams

http://lemelson.mit.edu/inventeams

High School

Exploravision Awards

http://www.exploravision.org/

Team event

United National Indian Tribal Youth 25 under 25 Youth Leadership Award

http://www.unityinc.org/index.php/native-youth/25-under-25/288-unity-25-under-25-honorees-announced

High School

Invention Convention

http://inventionconvention.org/

High School

Siemens Westinghouse competition in Math, Science and Technology

http://www.siemens-foundation.org/en/competition.htm

High school

Intel Science Talent Search. Junior Nobel Prize

https://student.societyforscience.org/intel-sts

Final year High school

PA Jr Academy of Science

http://www.pjas.net/state-competition

High school

2014 Broadcom MASTERS competition

https://student.societyforscience.org/broadcom-masters

High school

Philadelphia for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge

http://www.nfte.com/what/programs/philadelphia

High school

National Science Foundation Young Scholar

http://www.nsf.gov/

High school

Super Computing Expo

http://sc15.supercomputing.org/

High school

2013 International BioGENEius Challenge

http://www.biotechinstitute.org/go.cfm?do=page.view&pid=32

High school

Connecticut Invention Convention

http://ctinventionconvention.org/

High school

Teen Science Scholars program

http://www.dmns.org/media/2324826/teen-science-scholar-r4.pdf

High school

Pennsylvania Entrepreneurship Challenge sponsored by EconomicsPA

http://www.economicspa.org/

High school

Columbus Foundation Community Grant

http://columbusfoundation.org/nonprofit-center/grant-opportunities

High school

AUVSI Robosub competition

http://www.auvsifoundation.org/foundation/competitions/robosub/

High school

Peachtree Regional FRC competition

http://www.gafirst.org/

High school

Florida’s Emerald Coast Electrathon-a National Competition for student-built electric cars.

http://www.emeraldcoastelectrathon.com/

High school

American Association for Cancer Research’s Junior Champion in Cancer Research Award

http://www.aacr.org/Pages/Home.aspx

High school

Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC).

http://rocketcontest.org/

High school

Raytheon’s and the Patriots Science of Sports Science Fair.

http://www.raytheon.com/news/feature/rtn13_scienceofsports/

High school

Naval Science Award

http://www.onr.navy.mil/Education-Outreach/K-12-Programs/NSAP.aspx

High school

National STEM Video Game Challenge

http://www.stemchallenge.org/stem/#/home

High school

National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, a competition sponsored by the Army, Navy, and Air Force

http://www.jshs.org/nationalreg.html

High school

National Merit Scholar

http://www.nationalmerit.org/

High school

Princeton University’s Playwriting Competition.

http://arts.princeton.edu/about/opportunities/high-school-contests/ten-minute-play-contest/

High school

Games for Change

http://www.gamesforchange.org/

High school

Seimens We Can Change the World Challenge.

http://www.discoveryeducation.com/aboutus/newsArticle.cfm?news_id=789

High school

Future Innovators Award

http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/first-future-innovator-award

High school

National Science Teachers Association ExploraVision competition

http://www.exploravision.org/

High school

Aspirations in Computing from the National Center for Women and Information Technology

https://www.ncwit.org/programs-campaigns/aspirations-computing

High school

Lemelson Eureka Fest

http://lemelson.mit.edu/events/eurekafest-2015

High school

Robotics Programs

http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/jr.fll

High school

Theil fellowship

http://www.thielfellowship.org/about/about-the-fellowship/

High school


2 cents worth!

  • Stick-Figure-KidsThe ‘joy of serving’ needs to be become a habit that will grow their hearts and minds. Get them involved in building teams so they can learn to be strong leaders, find ways to have them share their talent with their community. Giving builds compassion, confidence and self worth.
  • Give them larger than life projects, and walk the tiny steps with them that take them there.
  • Competing, for the sake of competing, can be a futile and worthless effort. Creating a worthy cause for the effort will make it so much more meaningful and will multiply the fulfillment a 100 fold!
  • Teach our kids to earn their treats or gifts, so they can appreciate their own effort in meeting their desire.

Wishing you fun times ahead!
U.M.A (You, me, anybody)