Healthy Competition for Teens

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Competition is part of human nature. There is competition in getting jobs, sports, video games, politics, and in pretty much every activity in between. Sometimes it can seem like this much competition is bad, but there are also good benefits of competition as long as it is done in the right way.

Let’s look at some of the benefits and downsides to teenage competition as well as ways to improve your teen’s competitive behaviors so that their competition becomes or remains healthy.

Competition Benefits and Downsides

There are both downsides and benefits to competition, It is important to note that if your teen is overly competitive to the point of having angry outbursts or becoming aggressive, then they may benefit from therapy.  Check out for more information.

Competition is a constant throughout our entire lives. During adolescence, teens can use competition to prepare them on how to handle it in the future. It can help them learn to work hard and how to lose with maturity.

Teens who compete are also likely to develop empathy and other skills relating to teamwork. This is crucial for life as well because most of us have to get along with co-workers, neighbors, and other people. Learning how to work with other people to achieve a goal during the teenage years can make it easier to adapt to certain situations in the future.

Perseverance is another important skill that competition can encourage and foster. Better perseverance could be good for self-esteem and goal achievement among other things. A child who is competitive will likely be more inclined to work hard to be better at a particular activity.

While winning is always nice and may help teens see how their work can pay off, losing can also be good to teach teens how to manage their frustrations and negative emotions. It can help them learn that life is not always fair and that they will not always get their way.

Some of the downsides to competition include too much pressure and stress to do well and the negative emotions caused by losing. While there are many expert proponents of competition for teenagers, there are others who believe that competition can have a negative impact on development.

Some think that competition is bad for self-esteem because if someone puts in a lot of effort and then they lose, they may feel like they are not recognized or that their efforts were useless because they are not as good as their competition.

There is also the more recent, and sometimes controversial idea of participant trophies. Some believe that competitions do not offer motivation and boost perseverance. Instead, it could divide teens and make them look at everyone as a potential competitor. 

How to Make Competition Beneficial?

People approach and enter into competitions in different ways. Some may do anything that they can in order to win, even if it means cheating. They may even sabotage the competition or become incredibly emotional or discouraged if they lose.

It is crucial for healthy competition to promote growth in teenagers. If a teen does not believe that they can get better at the activity, then they are more likely to remain stuck at their skill level. Instead, they should strive for improvement. This also helps when they lose, because they will still know that they improved and did better than they would have if the competition took place a year prior.

Positive thinking is also an important aspect of healthy competition. Try to encourage your teen to view competition as a way to grow and achieve goals and that it is not merely about winning or losing. You can even encourage a teen to keep track of small, attainable goals that can help them grow towards a larger goal. This can help them see progress and boost self-esteem, regardless of whether they win or lose.

It is also a good idea to praise effort. Let your teen know that they did good, and you could see and improvement because of the effort that they put in. They may not have won the competition, but that does not mean that they didn’t personally win or achieve goals. You can even highlight positives for them as well as things to work on before the next competitive event.

When there is failure to win or achieve a specific goal, sometimes teens can be afraid that they are disappointing friends and family. They may even fear being made fun of or of letting down their teammates. While these concerns are understandable, it is good to talk to your teen about the ways that failure shaped you in your own personal narrative. How did it help you learn and grow and what did you do to move on successfully?

Never hold back approval or affection if your teen does not do as well as expected in a competition. This can make them feel like they disappointed you or that you do not love them when they do not win. It can increase their stress levels because they want to impress their parents instead of participating in the competitive activity for themselves.

Finally, while it is not good to quit everything at the first sign of frustration, if a competition is stressing your teen out so much that they are losing sleep or unable to function properly in school, then it may be best to let them either take a break or choose between activities to lighten their burden. Just let them know that quitting is not always the answer, but it is an option in some cases.


Some teens can be very competitive. They may even get stressed or have angry outbursts when things do not go the way they had hoped. While those extreme instances can be unhealthy, competition can also be highly beneficial for improving a teen’s skills, perseverance, and tenacity. It is important to make sure that a teenager approaches competition with a positive and healthy mindset.

By Marie Miguel – Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

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