It is commonly said that this is the age of competitions. The word Competition is derived from the word ‘ competing’- usually for supremacy, winning, getting a prize.
When can this be possible? Only when you are ready for the act that is going to be performed by a group where you are one among many trying to be the best, the winner, the supreme!
Now when this comes to young children, do they really understand what the competition is? Are they really ready to compete?
Is it really apt to get children as young as 3-8 years into competitions?
Are they really independent and creative in what they are doing for the competition?
Simple examples such as a fancy dress competition or mad hats competition, how much is actually the child’s role in it? Certain gestures or dialogues are given to the children and they enact what is practiced. How can that be considered for competition? The child who is smart or trained well receives the prize.
There are so many side effects of competitions for these children of a tender age. At times the waiting time, the costumes they are made to wear, the long hours of rehearsals, is quite frustrating for them. Adults take a lot of enjoyment by watching these tiny performers, but who knows the frustration they have. They cannot speak for themselves.
I always compare these type of children’s competitions with the cockfights and bullfights organized for the pleasure of adults.
Have you ever watched children performing a ‘shringarik lavani’ in a dance competition? They do not even know the meaning of the lyrics and the actions given to them. But they perform what is told to them. They get a huge applaud for the performance.
Are there competitions of activities that are related to the children’s interest, capacities, capabilities? Most of the competitions are based on adult selected topics.
A very simple thought about the readiness of children is very important when we talk about competitions but often ignored. Children need to be given enough time to explore their environment, use art material, enjoy free play, listen to kid songs (not nursery rhymes), time to make their own poems, own artifacts? We want our children to be all-rounders and it is very important to give them enough exposure to understand and make choices of their interest. If we want them to sing, dance, play instruments, shine in sports, be toppers in academics we have to let them listen to good music, watch authentic dance and acting shows, read books, poems, watch games. Discuss the highlights with them and give them opportunities to show what they can do. This will build their confidence and they will be much prepared for the competitions.
The major concern about today’s competitions is the adult world is not only creating stereotypes but also killing children’s natural creativity and innocence.
Have you ever watched the Master Chef Junior Competition? I bet you will understand the real meaning of a competition.
Competitions can be healthy and fair only when children have acquired the necessary skills and proficiency. Giving them a feeling of stardom at a tender age will not only hamper their development but also create an unhealthy ego and pride in them. This might also restrict their further growth and instinct of learning more. They are at a growing age and they should only be given exposure to try their hands out until they show proficiency in doing anything.
These days it has become a fashion to conduct competitions and in the end declare all participants as winners. This is not the right way to conduct competitions. We need to have patience until children attain maturity to understand the real meaning of competition and then face it. They are so innocent that they do not even understand if they don’t win, it is the parents who get upset.
Let us give our children the exposure and choice to select the activities of their interest and to develop the necessary skills before they enter a competition and compete.