Ask Joanne - School Says My Son's Too Competitive

19/07/2009 12:08 | Updated 22 May 2015

What's your parenting question or dilemma for Ask Joanne? Send it in for our life coach Joanne Mallon to answer at this address. Say if you'd like your name changed.

Rodolfo got in touch after he read this question about competitive kids, because he has a similar situation:

My wife and I just got back from a mid year review on both our kids (boy 6, girl 4) and the main comment was about the older being a good student but too competitive and even harsh and offensive with his classmates sometimes. What really got them wondering is the fact that most of the kids want to play with him all the time and he is a leader but is becoming a "bad leader".

I´m very competitive by nature and believe it's good for them to learn it but I don´t like the fact that it is affecting his life in a negative way. He plays golf and I encourage him to compete and he likes it but I´ve never been pushing too hard or even getting close to punishing him if he lost or did badly.

One last thing, our third kid (a boy aged 7 months) was born with Down's Syndrome and had to undergo heart surgery in February. Needless to say, everybody got affected by this.

Thanks in advance!

Here's life coach Joanne's reply:

Dear Rodolfo

Thank you for getting in touch. It sounds like a complex situation, but you sound perceptive enough to be able to find a way through it. Since the school are presenting you with this problem, what are they planning to do to help you find a solution? What support can they offer your son?

In finding a solution, start by being as specific as you can about your son's behaviour: What exactly is he doing that earns him the judgement of being a "bad leader"? Talk to him about these specific actions, and between you both, come up with alternative action he could take next time. It's very important to label the behaviour, not the child. Your son is still a great kid, even if he's making poor choices right now.

You have recognised that you are a role model for competitiveness, and at six your son is moving into a time when all male figures around him will be an important influence on the young man he grows into. What kind of a leader are you? How could you model good leadership for him?

It sounds like you both have a good outlet in your golf, and perhaps it might be worth focusing on a few other interests, especially those that involve developing social skills by interacting with others. At this stage, it's important for your son to start developing empathy and a sense of how his actions affect others. Perhaps he could get involved in a team sport, or something where there are no winners and losers, such as an art or gardening project.

Your youngest child's health challenges will undoubtedly have had a stressful effect on the rest of the family. When someone we love is ill, it's common to feel like life is out of control - this could explain why your son is trying to control other aspects of his life. It's important that you all have a release from this stress. So fun, and plenty of it, is on the menu.

I hope this helps and wish you all well for the future

Best wishes


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