Friday, November 17, 2006

Re-post: Competitiveness - Jan 05

From Wednesday 19th January, 2005

I've been meaning to blog about this for a few days now: I'm trying to understand competitiveness better.

We've started playing Connect 4 with Lyddie, because she took an interest when the older ones were playing. Now, she understands the concept of 'your turn, my turn' and she understands that the aim is for someone to get 4 counters of the same colour in a row, BUT she doesn't understand the competitive element. She thinks it's the aim of both players to get 4 in a row, of either colour, and it doesn't matter which player achieves it, both win, no-one loses.

So we've tried saying, "Look, I've got 3 counters in a row, you'll have to block me or I'll get 4," and she's just not interested in preventing her opponent from winning, because neither 'I win, you lose', nor 'You win, I lose' features in her thinking at all. We'd have to work very hard to coerce her into even starting to think that way and I don't think we want to. It feels like something very precious and special would be irrevocably damaged if we did.

I've talked to other mums about this whose children never went to school, and they've told me that in many cases, the competitive element never developed in their thinking. When Tom, Ali and Zar had been out of school for just a few months I remember realising, when I watched them play Monopoly, that their whole approach to the game had changed of its own accord. Rather than each person focus on winning, they'd work together to keep the game going instead. So, if someone couldn't afford rent they'd be let off without question, or the property owner would 'forget to check' and miss it, and it got to the point when they'd just keep issuing more bank money when people ran out.

I've also seen home-educated teenagers playing Trivial Pursuit and that's really interesting too: they approach each question as a group and discuss together until they've worked out the answer. Everyone wins, no-one loses, and they all really enjoy playing it that way. It's something they work out for themselves, a naturally occurring thing. They don't have an adult standing there saying, "Now wouldn't it be lovely if you all played nicely..?" or anything. It simply doesn't occur to them to do it any other way.

So it seems like competitiveness might not be a natural instinct. It seems to need to be planted in people deliberately and it seems to be quite hard work to install and maintain.

*Nov 2006 edit: Lucy and I noticed something about this at the home ed meeting a couple of weeks ago. Our three young daughters (aged 3, 4 and 5) were holding impromptu running 'races' across the hall. When each one got to the badminton net they shouted, as part of the game and almost as a matter of form, "I win!" They ALL shouted this, regardless of who got there first, and they were all happy for each other to shout it. They really didn't care who won or lost, they were just enjoying running and shouting.

This post prompted a debate in the comments section about whether competitiveness is a desirable thing. Sadly lost now .

posted by Gill at 9:39 AM 8 comments


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