Challenging Our Kids: How Important Is It To Let Them Win?

Are we Challenging Our Kids Enough? Photo Courtesy of US Army Garrison

Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army Garrison

Well the big kids’ Sports Days last week sent me into a total tizz as usual. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before (going from my vast experience based purely on the sports days at my primary school 300 years ago).  Every year I write to the school and beg them to change the running races. In fact I’m so dead set on that changing, I don’t bring up anything else in case it clouds the issue. The final running race is total carnage: 2-3 rows of children running down just 6 lanes and straight into a wall of doting parents with their iPhones poised, who are all standing ON THE ACTUAL FINISH LINE!  This year, two kids got knocked down and one got trampled on.


‘Oh don’t worry,’ one teacher tells me, ‘there are no winners, they’re running for equality.’


What absolute rot.


Now the other issue I have with our school sports day is a total and complete lack of any attempt at challenging our kids. They have sporting activities, which are just far far too easy for them (the distance is painfully short), no-one’s keeping score and no-one’s making sure the kids do the activity properly.


Well, I got right up on my high horse and said to another Mum ‘can you believe it?!’ and she said ‘I know what you mean but I actually think there’s a good mix of stuff and rather than have the same sporty kids winning everything all the time, the other kids get to have fun too.’  So I had a think and thought yes she’s right – it IS all about having fun and joining in BUT I do think that kids need to FEEL stretched and challenged, whilst being given opportunities to succeed. If you’re presented with easy tasks and succeed at everything, then it can develop a false sense of your skills and abilities and set you up for feeling floored later on in life.


When I’m Empress, I’m going to design a sports day where each child takes part in a race, or sporting activity that’s right up their street. Then everyone can ‘compete’ fairly and squarely and be proud of themselves.  I know I’m sounding all about the winning but I’m actually not – I’m all about the earning respect for yourself thing. If we’re not challenging our kids, then praise is meaningless isn’t it?


‘Oh look well done, you’ve run 10 metres, I’m so proud of you!’  Now, if it was our youngest son who had done that then yes we would be proud – he has special needs (Down Syndrome) and so for him to keep running to the end (even though he would probably be totally last) would mean something to us and to him. But to say it to our 6 year old and we’re just going to get an eye roll. He’s perfectly able to know whether he’s done something he’s proud of and has had to work to achieve the end goal and he’ll judge himself accordingly.  It’s all relative isn’t it?


What we get out of completing or achieving something we found hard actually means something and that’s a wonderful feeling to have isn’t it? We should be challenging our kids, giving them achievable goals as well as having fun, so WHEN they succeed, they really feel it.  What use is it to let your child win every time? That’s not life-proofing them is it?


I absolutely LOVE seeing the look on our kids’ faces when they know they’ve done well at something they’ve tried. Their little chests puff out and the smiles on their faces just make me so happy. I don’t actually care if what they’ve achieved isn’t of national interest or is very easy for someone else. It’s about THEM feeling they’re progressing.


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  • HonestMum
    July 6, 2015 AT 9:38 PM

    Agree healthy competition is crucial, obviously imp to have fun and I loved that all the children were awarded medals at the end of sports day for participation but striving and chasing goals is vital.

    • International Elf Service
      July 6, 2015 AT 11:07 PM

      I really do think so Vicki – it was a shambles of unengaged and disappointed kids and that was such a shame.

  • everything mummy
    July 3, 2015 AT 8:56 PM

    I know what you mean it is good to see them pushing themselves and when they do achieve something the look on there face is great but in a year group of say 80 not everyone can win and when they are still young i think promoting a fun day for them all is most important. Thanks for linking up to #sundaystars

    • International Elf Service
      July 3, 2015 AT 9:09 PM

      Yes I agree that a fun day is the most important – the trouble with our day is that the kids were having trouble engaging because it was ‘boring’ / ‘too easy’ and that made it a bit chaotic and less fun than it could have been for them. I’m pleased to hear this isn’t a national standard though!!

  • al ferguson
    June 30, 2015 AT 8:58 AM

    Could not agree more – that is def not life-proofing them. Another interesting read. Thanks for linking up #bigfatlinky

    • International Elf Service
      July 1, 2015 AT 11:00 AM

      Thanks Al – I’m very much keen on inclusion and fun but I still think kids need to feel a certain challenge so they can fully engage with an activity. Otherwise it’s too boring to try.

  • Ebabee
    June 29, 2015 AT 2:53 PM

    Fab post. I couldn’t agree more. I totally believe and encourage healthy competition. And yes kids needs to be challenged to reach their potential. Everybody should have a fair chance but there will always be those who do better than others – that is just life.

    • International Elf Service
      June 29, 2015 AT 10:11 PM

      Yes and it IS a hard lesson to learn but I think it’s an inevitable one. Plus I think children are often better at things than they think they are and it’s not until the try something and are stretched a bit at it that they discover it!

  • Rachel (Lifeofmyfamilyandme)
    June 28, 2015 AT 9:17 PM

    I see Sports day as just a fun day. My eldest does not like it as she doesn’t like the other children getting competitive. I always say just have fun. It doesn’t matter if you win or loose, its the taking part and having fun that counts 🙂 #sundaystars

    • International Elf Service
      June 29, 2015 AT 10:09 PM

      Hi Rachel – yes it’s definitely the taking part and having fun that counts. Some children find that sport is their thing and that they struggle with other things, so I think it’s lovely for them to have a go at something they’re good at too. Every subject is always going to be harder for some children than others. We’ve been working on our middle boy to try and encourage excitement and team spirit for those who do better than him. He tends to collapse a bit if he doesn’t come first.

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