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Kohn defined competitive games as those in which there are winners and losers. According to him, such games create a strong individual motivation for one to succeed while at the same time creating an interest in seeing their opponents fail. These games have a significant role to play in the development of children. However, others still believe that competitive games should be introduced in adulthood as opposed to childhood. Competitive can positively or negatively affect the development of children. Positive effects of competitive games are usually observed after a success in the game whereas negative effects are observed after a failure on the game.
According to Frankel and Myatt, the most productive approach during the early sessions of children’s training on friendship is to avoid the competitive games and instead focus on cooperative games until they have been taught on how to effectively reevaluate their social goals during competitive situations. Plummer indicated that there is no place for competitive games until a child is ready to engage in them by their own choice. However, irrespective of the harm associated with competitive play in children, competition forms an integral part in the lives of children and will therefore continue to exist for a long period of time. In this paper, I have focused on the impact of exposure to competitive play on the development of aggression, self esteem, and positive as well as negative behaviors in children.
Competitive play and the development of behavior in children
Children exposed to competitive games can develop either positive or negative behaviors in the process. Children who participate in cooperative games tend to display positive behaviors whereas those who participated in competitive games tend to display more negative behaviors.According to Beaver, children who are exposed to cooperative play have been shown to demonstrate fewer of the negative social behaviors and are also accepted by their peers whereas those exposed to competitive games demonstrate more negative behaviors and are therefore rejected by their peers.
Older children have a higher preference for competitive play which involves winning and losing because this offers them an experience of competence . Competitive play has a significant impact on the behavior of children. It damages their self esteem, destroys relationship, and affects the development of trust. In addition, it results in the development of behaviors such as envy and distrust. According to Kohn, competitive play is harmful to children and therefore children should be exposed to cooperative games which allow them to work as a team for the purpose of beating some element in the game. Children who are exposed to competitive play enhance their intellectual reasoning skills Kamii.
In the investigation conducted on cooperative and competitive games in constructivist classrooms, both games were found to be of educational value to the children enrolled in constructivist classrooms. However, there was no evidence to support the notion that competitive games are harmful to children and elicit more aggression. Children enrolled in classrooms which are characterized by high levels of cooperation displayed cooperative interactions irrespective of the game they are exposed to.
Chance based competitive games allow children to experiment with both new and old roles and do not require them to cope skillfully and strategically with the opposition. Most of the young athletes who are exposed into such games usually receive teachings on how to delight in the failures of others which improve their chances of being victorious. Children exposed to such games have become conditioned to the importance of winning the games that they avoid playing the games for the fun of it. Such children do not learn how to assist one another, complete the games in a friendly manner, and be sensitive to the feelings of others. On the other hand, the children who are exposed to cooperative play receive teachings on how to empathize, share, and work with others.
Competitive games are usually enjoyed by children and this serves as a motivation for their success. However, the use of competitive games only enables children to attach too much value to winning because the winning children receiving too much praise at the expense of the weaker children. Competitive games can either encourage children to succeed or breed jealousy between the winners and losers and result in fights and arguments among children. The reward of excessive competition and physical aggression which are associated with competitive play encourages cheating, feelings of frustration, defeat, unfair play, and isolation among children.
Children who fail in competitive games usually display sadness, heart-brokenness, and disempowerment. Children exposed to competitive games are more likely to develop the win at all costs attitudes. Those children who undergo rejection are more likely to behave better when exposed to cooperative games than competitive games. Boys who feel rejected are more likely to break the rules of cooperative games as opposed to the competitive games (Gelb and Jacobson, 1988).
Competitive play and the development of aggressive behaviors in children
Most researchers have established that competitive games have a direct impact on the development of aggressive behavior in children exposed to them. Kohn discovered that competitive behaviors contribute to decreased academic behaviors and increased aggression. In comparing the effects of both competitive and cooperative on groups of children, Bay-Hinriz et al. discovered that those children who are exposed to cooperative games display more of cooperative behaviors than aggressive behaviors whereas those who are exposed to competitive games display more of aggressive behavior than cooperative behavior.
Competition can have different effects on the social behaviors of children depending on how they perceive success. Socially rejected children who experience failure in competitive games have been reported to display aggressive behaviors when compared with the socially acceptable children. Competitive games and activities are associated with a wide range of problem behaviors especially aggressive behaviors in preadolescent children.
Competitive play and the development of Self esteem in Children
Competitive games also affect the development of self esteem. Through these games, children can either boost or lessen the self esteem of children. According to Beaver, competitive games can have adverse effects on children since most of them find losing difficult and the repeated experience of losing thus affects their fragile self esteem. Non-competitive games which mostly involve team cooperation and which stress on the completion of the activity rather than winning have a significant impact on the reduction of negative effects which are associated with losing.
Competitive games should be introduced during adulthood because of the vulnerability of younger children who are exposed to such games and who find it extremely difficult to cope with the low self esteem which comes as a result of losing the game. Children have to be allowed to first of all develop the degree of competence, emotional resilience, and self efficacy which are developed through the participation in non-competitive activities. According to Weinberg and Gould, many competitive sports for the young athletes are usually composed of elimination principles in which there was only one winner with the rest being regarded as losers and this lowers the self esteem and discourages the losers from continued participation in competitive sports .