Striking a balance between cooperation and competition

It's not unusual to see the notions of competition and cooperation at odds with each other. However, one does not preclude the other!

Is it okay to ask kids to strive for excellence? Absolutely! Is it okay to ask kids to help one another? Of course. How can you do both? By striking a balance between the values of cooperation and healthy competition. "As with everything in life, it's a question of moderation," says Nancy Doyon, family coach, special education teacher and founder of SOS Nancy. A prime example is a sports team, which must count on cooperation between its members to be competitive against its opponents.

At home, cooperation has its place in board games, household chores and mutual aid between family members. "Find projects where all family members have to work together. It could be a gardening project or a group craft project, like making a dollhouse. Come up with projects where everyone from the oldest to the youngest can take part to the best of their abilities," suggests Nancy.

Getting kids to experience working as a team, be it with their families, friends or neighbours, will introduce them to the joys of cooperation, including the notion of strength in numbers and the pleasure of working together toward a common goal.

"On the other hand, healthy competition inspires young people to strive to excel. That's okay, because one day these kids will be interviewed for a job and will have to excel to get it," believes Nancy. Demonizing competitiveness can lead to adverse effects, such as preventing children from displaying their full potential, out of fear of displeasing others. "There are young people with extraordinary abilities who deprive others of their talent simply because they've gotten into the habit of staying in the wings. Remember, sometimes it's okay to be the best!"

Benefits of cooperation

  • Learning to have fun
  • Working together toward a goal
  • Developing the values of mutual aid, sharing and team spirit
  • Learning to be patient with others

Benefits of healthy competition

  • Learning to enjoy striving for excellence
  • Learning to meet challenges
  • Aiming higher and further
  • Learning to be a good winner and a good loser

To do with children
Discover our educational activities on cooperation: