parenting competitive children

How to Best Parent Your Competitive Child Without Squelching Their Passion

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My wife and I are both, for the most part, laid back parents. Yes, we can be competitive and intense, but most of the time we’re pretty chill. Three of our four boys are like the proverbial “apple that hasn’t fallen far from the tree.” We know they have our DNA and seem to be wired in a similar way to Kristen and me. But, it’s a different story for one of our sons. We wonder where this apple that did fall far from the tree came from. He’s competitive, driven, passionate, and intense. Ever since he was 18 months old, our Type A, competitive, passionate child has perplexed us as parents.

For example, he’s never responded to discipline in the same way as our other boys. He’s motivated by different things, and his friends are different than our other boy’s types of friends. None of this is wrong in any way, shape, or form, but parenting him has challenged us in significant ways. At the same time, we know his passion and grit can be a good thing. The challenge we’ve faced is how to parent him well without squelching this passion. Maybe you have a competitive child as well. If you do, then you know the challenge of parenting competitive children. Whether their Type A personality comes out on the ballfield, in the classroom, at home, or in band, how can we best parent our competitive child without destroying their passion? Here are 8 things you and I can do to better parent our Type A, competitive child:

1. Appreciate their gifts and affirm their strengths.

Every child is unique. Encourage them for the way they’re made and wired. I know my son wants to excel in sports, so after every game, I point out three or four great plays he made or how he was a good teammate.

2. Help them channel their passion in the right direction and for the right things.

For example, we don’t encourage our son only for scoring goals or baskets but also for the ways he helps his team. The goal isn’t a victory in the win column or building up his stat sheet, but rather that he used his gift for the betterment of the team.

3. Encourage them to be a leader.

Maybe they can teach a friend or younger sibling something about their areas of passion and zeal.

4. Provide opportunities to give them perspective.

When things don’t go exactly the way our son wants them to go, we look for opportunities to provide perspective. We remind our son that a loss in soccer or a “B” on a spelling test isn’t the end of the world. We try to keep our kids updated to some of the real challenges people face across the world (i.e., war, famine, persecution) so that they can gain some perspective.

5. When their behavior and choices are destructive, call it out.

Don’t let them get away with bad behavior in the name of passion or wiring.

  • For example, our Type A child is competitive in everything. He yells at his Kindle when he loses a game. When he yells, he loses a privilege or loses time on his device.

6. Pull in other adults/leaders to help.

Pull in other adults/leaders to help. Parenting does not need to be a solo activity.At times, we’ve asked for input and wisdom from teachers, coaches, our friends, and his leaders at church. Parenting does not need to be a solo activity.

7. Let them be humbled and lose.

They can learn a lot from not winning or coming in first place. Maybe they need to lose the game or student council election. They don’t always have to get first chair in each band tryout. We want them to do their best, but there’s not much like humility to take the edge off of the competitive child.

8. Encourage them to try new things.

You may find something new that they are great at or may find an area that brings them more challenge. Facing challenges is a natural part of life for the competitive, Type A child. Often they thrive in overcoming and taking on these challenges.

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are you good at and how can you use that to help others?”