Wednesday, January 23, 2008
“ASSALAMU'ALAIKUM”, anak saya Izzuddin, 6 tahun memberi salam dengan kuat sambil meluru masuk membawa beg dan terus duduk di lantai berhampiran saya. Dia kemudian segera mengeluarkan lukisan dan satu bungkusan hadiah.
“ Mak, adik menang dan tengok adik warna semua dengan cepat dan cantik”, Izzuddin dengan bangga menunjukkan lukisannya dan menceritakan dengan nada ceria bagaimana dia telah berjaya menyiapkan tugasan mewarna sebiji nanas dan menjadi pemenang dalam pertandingan mewarna anjuran surau berhampiran rumah kami sempena sambutan Maal Hijrah baru-baru ini. Dia pergi bersama abahnya sahaja kerana saya demam.
Izzuddin membuka bungkusan hadiah berupa sebuah bekas pencil berisi sebatang pembaris, sebatang pensel dan satu pemadam. Dia menyatakan kegembiraan kepada hadiah yang diterima.
Suami saya kemudian menghampiri Izzudin dan menyatakan bahawa buah nanas itu akan kelihatan lebih cantik sekiranya diwarnakan dengan lebih terang dan beberapa komen lain. Izzuddin tetap dengan keceriaannya dan beria-ia mengatakan kali ini dia benar-benar berjaya menyiapkan lukisannya dengan baik. Kemudian dia bangun mengambil ”masking tape” dalam lacinya dan menampal lukisan tersebut di satu sudut. Dia kelihatan sangat berbangga dengan hasil kerjanya.
Suami saya kemudian menjelaskan kepada saya secara perlahan bahawa Izzuddin bukan pemenang tetapi hanya mendapat hadiah sagu hati dan hasil kerja kanak-kanak jauh lebih baik. Saya menyatakan semua itu tidak penting, yang penting dia telah berusaha dan berbangga dengan hasil karyanya yang semakin hari semakin bagus.
Anak-anak kecil sebenarnya belum mengerti banyak perkara. Kenapa mereka perlu bertanding? Bagi Izzuddin dia mewarna mengikut warna yang disukainya dan sentiasa melaporkan peningkatan dirinya kepada emak dan abah. Setiap karyanya biasanya dipamerkan untuk kami dengan rasa yakin dan bangga.
Setiap kanak-kanak juga berbeza. Anak perempuan saya Nurin suka kepada pertandingan dan sentiasa ingin melakukan yang terbaik. Malah dia selalu berasa kecewa apabila kalah dan kadang-kadang menangis.
Muhammad pula tidak suka kepada pertandingan. Dia juga tidak kisah kepada hadiah yang ditawarkan dan mengatakan dia tak perlukan itu semua. Teringat saya ketika dia terpilih untuk mewakili tadikanya dalam satu pertandingan bercerita dalam bahasa Inggeris. Dia tidak mahu tetapi setuju setelah dipujuk oleh gurunya. Saya juga gembira apabila Muhammad terpilih mewakili tadika di peringkat daerah.
Guru memberi masa satu bulan untuk Muhammad menghafal cerita dan aksinya. Saya dapat rasakan dia tertekan. Begitu juga dengan saya yang diminta guru untuk membantu melatihnya.
Pada hari pertandingan Muhammad meragam dan tidak mahu menghadirinya. Puas saya dan suami memujuk dan kami sekeluarga menghadirinya untuk memberi semangat. Apa pun saya dapat rasakan dia tidak gembira sepanjang masa dan merasa begitu tertekan. Muhammad tampak gembira apabila segalanya berakhir.
Pada hari itu saya mempelajari sesuatu yang penting. Persoalan begini timbul. Pertandingan ini untuk siapa? Memberi kemenangan kepada sekolah, membanggakan saya, ibunya ataupun benar-benar untuk kepentingan anak? Saya sedar saya seorang ibu yang telah menjadi mangsa keadaan.
Izzuddin pula berlainan. Dia sukakan pertandingan tetapi tak kisah kepada orang lain dan hanya fokus kepada menyiapkan kerja dengan caranya tersendiri dan sentiasa berbangga dengan karyanya. Yang lebih penting dia seronok mendapat hadiah walau dalam apa jua bentuk. Mungkin pengalaman kami sebagai ibu bapa menjadikan kami lebih relaks dan tidak menekan. Ini membantu menjadikan Izzuddin anak yang sentiasa gembira dengan hasil kerjanya.
Mutakhir ini banyak sekali pertandingan diadakan untuk kanak-kanak seperti pertandingan mewarna, melukis, mengeja dan bercerita. Ia menjadi antara agenda penting bagi memeriahkan majlis dan juga menarik lebih ramai ibu bapa dan orang ramai ke sesuatu upacara ataupun perayaan.
Semasa Nurin dan Muhammad kecil saya sering membawa mereka ke pertandingan mewarna bagi memberi pendedahan. Tetapi sampai satu ketika saya berhenti melakukannya kerana tidak bergitu selesa melihat ramai ibu bapa yang memberi tekanan kepada anak-anak semasa pertandingan dengan memberi cadangan dan tak kurang yang turut membantu mewarna.
Tambahan pula tidak semua pertandingan memberikan hadiah kepada setiap kanak-kanak yang mengambil bahagian. Hanya beberapa tempat tertinggi sahaja diberikan. Saya teringat selepas satu pertandingan, Nurin begitu kecewa kerana tidak mendapat hadiah. Saya membelikan hadiah buatnya dan menyatakan bahawa dia juga pemenang bagi saya.
Semakin hari kita semakin bersaing dalam segala segi baik dari segi akedemik ataupun tidak. Adakah anak pasti akan berjaya menjalani kehidupan sekiranya mereka berjaya mendapat tempat teratas mengalahkan yang lain. Yang lebih penting adakah yang kalah akan terus berusaha membaiki diri atau terus menghukum diri sebagai yang sentiasa akan kalah.
Bagi saya , apa yang lebih penting adalah memberi kebebasan kepada anak-anak untuk berkreatif dan meneroka. Ia bukan tentang kita tetapi mereka. Setiap kanak-kanak adalah pemenang dengan cara mereka sendiri. Mereka sebenarnya sedang meningkatkan prestasi diri dari masa ke semasa mengikut kemampuan, kecenderungan dan minat mereka tersendiri.
Saya setuju dengan Alfie Kohn dalam artikelnya “ The Case Against Competition” yang berpendapat “cooperative game” lebih baik . Ia menggalakkan kanak-kanak untuk bekerjasama menghasilkan sesuatu dengan gembira tanpa tekanan siapa menang atau siapa kalah.
Saya sisipkan di bawah artikel tersebut dan satu lagi artikel bertajuk “Competition, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.
The Case Against Competition
By Alfie Kohn
When it comes to competition, we Americans typically recognize only two legitimate positions: enthusiastic support and qualified support.
The first view holds that the more we immerse our children (and ourselves) in rivalry, the better. Competition builds character and produces excellence. The second stance admits that our society has gotten carried away with the need to be Number One, that we push our kids too hard and too fast to become winners -- but insists that competition can be healthy and fun if we keep it in perspective.
I used to be in the second camp. But after five years of investigating the topic, looking at research from psychology, sociology, education and other fields. I'm now convinced that neither position is correct. Competition is bad news all right, but it's not just that we overdo it or misapply it. The trouble lies with competition itself. The best amount of competition for our children is none at all, and the very phrase "healthy competition" is actually a contradiction in terms.
That may sound extreme if not downright un-American. But some things aren't just bad because they're done to excess; some things are inherently destructive. Competition, which simply means that one person can succeed only if others fail, is one of those things. It's always unnecessary and inappropriate at school, at play and at home.
Think for a moment about the goals you have for your children. Chances are you want them to develop healthy self-esteem, to accept themselves as basically good people. You want them to become successful, to achieve the excellence of which they're capable. You want them to have loving and supportive relationships. And you want them to enjoy themselves.
These are fine goals. But competition not only isn't necessary for reaching them -- it actually undermines them.
Competition is to self-esteem as sugar is to teeth. Most people lose in most competitive encounters, and it's obvious why that causes self-doubt. But even winning doesn't build character; it just lets a child gloat temporarily. Studies have shown that feelings of self-worth become dependent on external sources of evaluation as a result of competition: Your value is defined by what you've done. Worse -- you're a good person in proportion to the number of people you've beaten.
In a competitive culture, a child is told that it isn't enough to be good -- he must triumph over others. Success comes to be defined as victory, even though these are really two very different things. Even when the child manages to win, the whole affair, psychologically speaking, becomes a vicious circle: The more he competes, the more he needs to compete to feel good about himself.
When I made this point on the Phil Donahue Show, my objections were waved aside by the parents of a seven-year-old tennis champion named Kyle, who appeared on the program with me. Kyle had been used to winning ever since a tennis racket was put in his hands at the age of two. But at the very end of the show, someone in the audience asked him how he felt when he lost. Kyle lowered his head and in a small voice replied, "Ashamed."
This is not to say that children shouldn't learn discipline and tenacity, that they shouldn't be encouraged to succeed or even have a nodding acquaintance with failure. But none of these requires winning and losing -- that is, having to beat other children and worry about being beaten. When classrooms and playing fields are based on cooperation rather than competition, children feel better about themselves. They work with others instead of against them, and their self-esteem doesn't depend on winning a spelling bee or a Little League game.
Children succeed in spite of competition, not because of it. Most of us were raised to believe that we do our best work when we're in a race -- that without competition we would all become fat, lazy and mediocre. It's a belief that our society takes on faith. It's also false.
There is good evidence that productivity in the workplace suffers as a result of competition. The research is even more compelling in classroom settings. David Johnson, a professor of social psychology at the University of Minnesota, and his colleagues reviewed all the studies they could find on the subject from 1924 to 1980. Sixty-five of the studies found that children learn better when they work cooperatively as opposed to competitively, eight found the reverse, and 36 found no significant difference. The more complex the learning task, the worse children in a competitive environment fared.
Brandeis University psychologist Teresa Amabile was more interested in creativity. She asked 22 girls, ages seven to 11, to make "silly collages." Some competed for prizes and some didn't. Seven artists then independently rated the girls' work. It turned out that the children who were trying to win produced collages that were much less creative -- less spontaneous, complex and varied -- than the others.
One after another, researchers across the country have concluded that children do not learn better when education is transformed into a competitive struggle. Why? First, competition often makes kids anxious and that interferes with concentration. Second, competition doesn't permit them to share their talents and resources as cooperation does, so they can't learn from one another. Finally, trying to be Number One distracts them from what they're supposed to be learning. It may seem paradoxical, but when a student concentrates on the reward (an A or a gold star or a trophy), she becomes less interested in what she's doing. The result: Performance declines.
Just because forcing children to try to outdo one another is counterproductive doesn't mean they can't keep track of how they're doing. There's no problem with comparing their achievements to an objective standard (how fast they ran, how many questions they got right) or to how they did yesterday or last year. But any mother who values intellectual development for her child should realize that turning learning into a race simply doesn't work.
Competition is a recipe for hostility. By definition, not everyone can win a contest. If one child wins, another cannot. This means that each child inevitably comes to regard others as obstacles to his or her own success. Forget fractions or home runs; this is the real lesson our children learn in a competitive environment.
Competition leads children to envy winners, to dismiss losers (there's no nastier epithet in our language than "Loser!") and to be suspicious of just about everyone. Competition makes it difficult to regard others as potential friends or collaborators; even if you're not my rival today, you could be tomorrow.
This is not to say that competitors will always detest each other. But trying to outdo someone is not conducive to trust -- indeed, it would be irrational to trust someone who gains from your failure. At best, competition leads one to look at others through narrowed eyes; at worst, it invites outright aggression. Existing relationships are strained to the breaking point, while new friendships are often nipped in the bud.
Again, the research helps to explain the destructive effect of win/lose arrangements. When children compete, they are less able to take the perspective of others -- that is, to see the world from someone else's point of view. One study demonstrated conclusively that competitive children were less empathetic than others; another study showed that competitive children were less generous.
Cooperation, on the other hand, is marvelously successful at helping children to communicate effectively, to trust in others and to accept those who are different from themselves. Competition interferes with these goals and often results in outright antisocial behavior. The choice is ours: We can blame the individual children who cheat, turn violent or withdraw, or we can face the fact that competition itself is responsible for such ugliness.
Studies also show, incidentally, that competition among groups isn't any better than competition among individuals. Kids don't have to work against a common enemy in order to know the joys of camaraderie or to experience success. Real cooperation doesn't require triumphing over another group.
Having fun doesn't mean turning playing fields into battlefields. It's remarkable, when you top to think about it, that the way we teach our kids to have a good time is to play highly structured games in which one individual or team must defeat another.
Consider one of the first games our children learn to play: musical chairs. Take away one chair and one child in each round until one smug winner is seated and everyone else has been excluded from play. You know that sour birthday party scene; the needle is lifted from the record and someone else is transformed into a loser, forced to sit out the rest of the game with the other unhappy kids on the side. That's how children learn to have fun in America.
Terry Orlick, a Canadian expert on games, suggests changing the goal of musical chairs so children are asked to fit on a diminishing number of seats. At the end, seven or eight giggling, happy kids are trying to squish on a single chair. Everyone has fun and there are no winners or losers.
What's true of musical chairs is true of all recreation; with a little ingenuity, we can devise games in which the obstacle is something intrinsic to the task itself rather than another person or team.
In fact, not one of the benefits attributed to sports or other competitive games actually requires competition. Children can get plenty of exercise without struggling against each other. Teamwork? Cooperative games allow everyone to work together, without creating enemies. Improving skills and setting challenges? Again, an objective standard or one's own earlier performance will do.
When Orlick taught a group of children noncompetitive games, two thirds of the boys and all of the girls preferred them to games that require opponents. If our culture's idea of a good time is competition, it may just be because we haven't tried the alternative.
How can parents raise a noncompetitive child in a competitive world? Competition is actually destructive to children's self-esteem. It interferes with learning, sabotages relationships and isn't necessary for a good time. But how do you raise a child in a culture that hasn't yet caught on to this?
There are no easy answers here. But there is one clearly unsatisfactory answer: Make your son or daughter competitive in order to fit into the "real world." That isn't desirable for the child -- for all the reasons given here -- and it perpetuates the poison of competition in another generation.
Children can be taught about competition, prepared for the destructive forces they'll encounter, without being groomed to take part in it uncritically. They can be exposed to the case against competition just as they are taught the harms of drug abuse or reckless driving.
You will have to decide how much compromise is appropriate so your child isn't left out or ridiculed in a competitive society. But at least you can make your decision based on knowledge about competition's destructiveness. You can work with other parents and with your child's teachers and coaches to help change the structures that set children against one another. Of you may want to look into cooperative schools and summer camps, which are beginning to catch on around the country.
As for reducing rivalry and competitive attitudes in the home:
• Avoid comparing a child's performance to that of a sibling, a classmate, or yourself as a child.
• Don't use contests ("Who can dry the dishes fastest?") around the house. Watch your use of language ("Who's the best little girl in the whole wide world?") that reinforces competitive attitudes.
• Never make your love or acceptance conditional on a child's performance. Some parents give subtle messages; they may say to their child, "As long as you did your best..." but Bobby knows that Mommy really likes him better when he wins. Nothing is more psychologically destructive than making approval dependent on victory.
• Be aware of your power as a model. If you need to beat others, your child will learn that from you regardless of what you say. The lesson will be even stronger if you use your child to provide you with vicarious victories.
Raising healthy, happy, productive children goes hand in hand with creating a better society. The first step to achieving both is recognizing that our belief in the value of competition is built on myths. There are better ways for our children -- and for us -- to work and play and live
Competition: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
David W. Andrews, Ph.D, 4-H Youth Development, The Ohio State University
In recent years, human development professionals have debated amidst considerable controversy, both in the field and in the public sphere the appropriate role of competition in the lives of youth. According to professionals on one side of the debate, competition is good. These professionals believe we should kindle our children's naturally competitive spirits early and often. According to professionals on the opposing side, competition is inherently bad and negatively impacts development.
While the professionals themselves compete for the majority opinion, you and I need only to observe an incident or two of outrageous parent behavior at a child's competitive event to conclude that value judgments aside competition can often become ugly.
Competition is clearly a part of human nature. While some cultures are more competitive than others, universal elements of competition cut across many cultures. For example, competition for resources in the forms of food, jobs, living quarters, and general status in society is prevalent, to some degree, in most cultures. Furthermore, an element of score keeping is evident in the most innocent of children's games. The number of young people participating in competitive events such as athletics, 4-H contests, spelling bees, academic quiz bowls, or beauty Contests demonstrates how competition engages the youth in this country.
Adults, too, compete daily both at work and at play. Some believe that the only way to achieve a competitive edge in the adult world is by engaging in as many competitive experiences as possible in childhood to gain practice. Support of competition is so strong that one political party recently included a mandate for competition through participation in 4-H activities as part of the Iowa caucus. This was a response to an attempt to recognize participation ahead of winning or losing at 4-H events, and was perceived by party leaders as promoting socialism.
So competition clearly exists. Exactly how competition motivates young people, however, is much less clear. According to some studies, competition among preteens enables them to compare their skills against the skills of their peers. Competition as a means of social comparison appears to help young people find their niches. As soon as this is established, they can refine and specialize their skills.
Helping young people manage the competitive demands of their lives is difficult, but not impossible. Cox (see Practice Wisdom) offers helpful strategies for designing programs in which competition enhances development.
Researchers focusing on the adverse effects of competition have been active since the early 1900s. (For Scheer’s summary of this work, see the Research Update.) The bulk of this research points to the improved social conditions associated with cooperation as opposed to competition.
Competition often generates internal social conflict, while cooperation often generates group harmony and enhanced productivity. Individual and group productivity, for example, appear to increase in cooperative learning settings (Johnson & Johnson, 1992).
Promoting structured competition among young children may be particularly harmful. Motivated by exploration and play, young children do not need to compete to participate in activities. Neither do they effectively use the results of competitive activities to compare their performances with the performances of others. In fact, children younger than nine years of age do not handle winning and losing well, and repeatedly exposing them to highly competitive situations may negatively affect the development of their self-worth and identity (Minuchin 1977).
In addition, competition may lead to an over-reliance on external rewards. While scientific studies have connected intrinsic motivation with cooperation and extrinsic motivation with competition, all you have to do is observe what motivates those around you. For example, many adults who work with children in competitive events such as a beauty contest, a tennis tournament, or a 4-H steer auction are motivated by the monetary value of the external rewards. Financial reward is clearly associated with the level of effort dedicated to the task. When external rewards become the primary motivators for children, adults quickly offer assistance and, unfortunately, the ugly side of competition once again rears its, well, ugly head.
We observe daily how competition brings out ugly behavior in us. The tennis phenom who throws a racquet, curses an adult official, and refuses to acknowledge fan support demonstrates ugly behavior. The teenager, or the teenager's parent, who injects growth hormones into an animal prior to a thousand-dollar competition at a county fair also demonstrate ugly behavior. Photos of a five-year-old beauty queen in sexually suggestive poses, complete with make-up and revealing clothing, again reveals the uglier side of human nature. Unfortunately, the examples go on and on.
Out-of-control competition is simply ugly. Parents, adults, and young people may lose their perspectives when the stakes of the competition are high. The mildest-mannered father or mother may scream like a maniac at the finals of the local soccer tournament. Or, children may be allowed to exhibit displays of disrespect toward adult officials that would never be tolerated at home or at school. The context of the competition seems to excuse or suspend normal expectations of civility.
MANAGING YOUTH COMPETITION
We need to do two things to create an environment in which our children can compete healthily. First, we need to examine the role of competition in our children’s lives. Is their too much or too little? Are children being exposed to serious competition too early? Are the rewards too high? A balance of competitive and cooperative experiences may reduce the bad, and the ugly, side of competition. Too much too early will generally lead to difficult situations for children.
Second, we need to increase our efforts to help specific children and families manage competition and its impact on their development. Individual children respond to competition differently. Children who lose interest in activities, report high anxiety related to competition, or show signs of dishonesty when competing are likely to be having trouble coping with the demands of competition. Parents and professionals should collaborate to initiate strategies to help these children deal with the demands of competition.
Competition is never all good, all bad, or all ugly; its value is contextually determined. Every effort must be made to evaluate competitive systems and specific competitive situations to determine their impact on the holistic development of children.
Johnson, D. W. & Johnson, R. T. (1992). Preparing children to live in an interdependent world. In A. Combs (Ed.) Cooperation: Beyond the age of competition. Philadelphia, PA: Gordon and Breach.
Minuchin, P. (1977). The middle years of childhood. Monterey, CA: Brooks Cole