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Cooperation over Competition 




My  daughter (5) is so  scared of not winning or doing well at something that she refuses to try anything new or play games with her peers.  She refuses to participate in gym class or games at birthday parties. We do not put any pressure on her to do well, just to try.  How do we help her get over this?


Your version of "pressure" and your daughter's version may be two completely different things.

Each child comes into the world with their own temperament. While most children will fall into a middle range on any number of measures, there are of course, those children who fall outside of those middle ranges. Hence we have some children who are naturally gregarious and competitive and other children who are reserved, cautious and adverse to competition, perhaps feeling insecure or alternatively, so empathetic, they can't stand another's pain when the other person loses.

If this describes your daughter, there may be no way to beg, cajole, bribe or coerce her to participate in competitive activities.
However, this is not to say she can't enjoy or even shine in cooperative activities. Cooperative activities have no winners or losers. Cooperative activities are aimed at enjoying a process or activity for the mere sake of the activity. Cooperative activities may produce a result such as a picture or even a good deed, where someone else is the beneficiary of the activity.

The key to helping your daughter to feel good about herself and participate in social gatherings may then be helping her chose those friends and gatherings where cooperation is promoted over competition.


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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847  


Gary Direnfeld is a social worker in private practice. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider Gary an expert on child development, parent-child relations, marital and family therapy, custody and access recommendations, social work and an expert for the purpose of giving a critique on a Section 112 (social work) report.


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