How to build a competitive spirit in a child?

Competitive spirit needs result oriented mindset. This mindset needs the child to be motivated by an external reward. This reword can be a grade in a subject or a place on the podium. This required the child to compare herself with the children around her. This also required checking on her skill levels through constant tests and scores so that she can be aware of her present place in the crowd. To keep the child motivated we need to drive the child with fear of loosing and greed of winning. We need the child to be insensitive towards own pain so that she can keep pushing herselves when things get tough. This is what popularly known as ‘Grit’. The child will also have to be desensitised of others feelings if she has to be focused on her goal. Competitiveness is effective and if the child is able to cope up with the challenges it does provides excellent result what is popularly known as success in life.

4 steps to develop competitiveness

I wish you would not go down this path. Assuming you still want to develop a competitive spirit in your child, here is what you can do:


Compare your child with others in terms of performance so that she will keep pushing herself with higher efforts because of the fear.


Always measure your child's skill level in terms of numbers so that she is able to get the sense of progress in her skills. This releases dopamine and dopamine is highly addictive.

Reward System

Create some kind of reward system that will encourage her gradually. An external motivation always improves performance, however, this reward has to increase over the period of time to get better results. It is important to keep the challenge curve smooth for the child so that she can cope up with it. If she is not able to cope up, then she will give up.

Conditioning System

Develop conditioning system, that means to give her things only if she has abode by some conditions. Like “if you finish food only then you will get deserts”, “if you finish homework only then you will get to watch TV”, “if you behave nicely entire day only then you will get story time”. This will always keep her on her toes and build an attitude of competitiveness.

Other effects of competitiveness

Competitiveness, however, will most of the time fall short of excellence. Because excellence needs freedom of expression of our true self. Competitiveness is not freedom, it is bondage towards the goals and results. Competitiveness can give success and that may appear as excellence, but since this result was forced through grit, it does come with its side effects, like stress and anxiety and that is just the beginning. This can then lead to depression and other chronic diseases. The reason for these side effect is that competitiveness thrives on fear and when we carry fear for a long period of time it takes a toll on our body and mind. Although grit may appear as a virtue when things are in control, it is bound to snap after a period of time. With grit, we have conditioned a child with fight response (keep pushing) through the seeds of fear. Fight response always exists with flight response (running away). The child will keep pushing (fighting) until the point she has energy, and if there is not enough energy, the child will have to give up (flight response). So if we create too big a challenge or if the child thinks she doesn’t have enough energy, she will eventually give up.

Competitiveness makes us insensitive towards other too. This leased us to not able to collaborate or work as a team. The collaboration and teamwork get restricted to only with the condition of personal benefits. Competitiveness makes empathy and kindness secondary.

An alternative approach

Opposite of result oriented mindset is passion oriented mindset. See the article ‘First step towards perseverance’ for more details.

For developing passion oriented perseverance in the child please see the article ‘How to develop perseverance in a child?’ This is the path to true excellence, collaboration, and kindness.

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