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Can participating in competitions enhance learning in our children? - Lessons from ‘The Karate Kid’


Hey there! 😀

Here’s food for thought:

Do you agree that competitions are a great way to learn?

“Sometimes we win, and sometimes we lose. That’s the game. But I had fun, and I learned so many new steps from Sheela.” 

Neha, a ten-year-old girl, consoled herself as she walked down the dance hall after her first-year dance program at the Academy for Performing Arts. 

Neha’s mom, who noticed her daughter’s silence, asked her, “What’s wrong, Neha? Are you feeling sad because you lost the competition?” 

Neha replied, “Yes, Mom, a little sad, 😔 but I also understand that I learned new steps, and the feedback from the judges was helpful.” 

Neha asked her mother what she thought about competitions and why she always encouraged her to participate in them. 

Credits: Columbia Pictures

Neha’s mom replied, “Recent research has shown that competition can boost physical effort for both short and long periods. Competition can also increase physical drive, such as the motivation to play sports. Competitive people are driven by at least three reasons: Competition lets them fulfil their desire to win; competition gives them a chance or a reason to improve their performance; and competition inspires them to work harder, which can lead to better results.”

They paused for a moment, and then they both thought of the same thing. They said in unison, “Karate kid,” and burst into laughter.

Daniel, a seventeen-year-old boy, moves to a new city with his mother and faces his rivals with the help of an ex-army officer. He learns many life and karate skills to beat his opponent, who is trained by a famous karate master and is more advanced than him. But Daniel, who never gives up despite the difficulties he faces during the tournament, finally becomes the champion.

“Wow, mom, that’s fascinating. But how did Daniel improve his performance by competing?” Neha asked, curious about her mom’s explanation. 

Credits: Columbia Pictures

“Great question, Neha. Did you notice that Daniel, who had no prior training, was able to win the trophy? That’s because he competed, and he was motivated to learn many skills in a short time. Don’t you think that’s a good example of how we can learn more from competitions? Let me also share some more interesting facts with you.” 

Have you ever heard of the N effect? 

It means that sometimes, smaller competitions are more motivating. A 2009 study by Stephen Garcia and Avishalom showed that competition is more motivating when there are fewer competitors. The researchers gave students a short quiz and promised that the top 20% who finished it fastest and most accurately would win $5. One group was told they were competing against ten other kids, while another group was told they were competing against 100 other students. They found out that the students in the smaller group finished the quiz faster than those in the larger group. 

Credits: Kinorium

When the competition is smaller, we think our chances of winning are higher, so we are more motivated to work harder and our performance is better.

“Mom, we are learning about the brain in science class. I have learned that winning a competition activates your brain’s reward regions, which causes a surge of that hormone…umm…it’s called…the ‘feel-good hormone’ dopamine in the hypothalamus, the pleasure centre. Once you feel this surge, you want to do it again and again, which makes you eager to compete.” Neha said.

She continued, saying, “Now I understand the benefits of competition, Mom, and I want to participate in more competitions to learn more and improve my performance. Do you remember my friend Nikki? She told me about an app called Trumsy, which is available on both Google Play Store and iOS, and organizes many competitions for teens and pre-teens like us. I think it’s cool because these competitions are designed to reduce the screen time that you always worry about.”

Both mother and daughter shared a laugh and drove home.

So, what do you think? Do you agree that competitions help us learn and grow better? Here are some examples of how they do: 

  • Skill Development: Competition helps us develop a variety of skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, time management, and effective communication. These skills are useful and relevant for different aspects of our academic and personal life.

  • Motivation and Goal Setting: Competition gives us a clear goal to aim for, motivating us to pursue excellence. Achieving goals in a competitive environment gives us a sense of accomplishment and enhances our self-esteem, inspiring us to keep improving and setting higher standards for ourselves.

Credits: Kinorium

  • Resilience and Perseverance: Competition teaches us how to deal with setbacks and failures. It builds our resilience by showing us that setbacks are a normal part of the learning process. Facing challenges in a competitive setting cultivates a mindset of perseverance and determination.

  • Social Skills and Teamwork: Competition encourages collaboration, which helps children develop social skills and teamwork. Whether they are working on a group project or competing as a team, children learn how to cooperate with others, exchange ideas, and respect different opinions.

  • Exposure to Diverse Perspectives: Competition exposes children to participants from different backgrounds and regions. This gives them a chance to interact with diverse cultures, perspectives, and problem-solving methods. It expands their horizons and enriches their knowledge of various concepts and practices.

Competition is a holistic learning experience that goes beyond academic knowledge. It provides children with valuable life skills and helps them become well-rounded individuals.

Hear out more from a parent who uses the Trumsy app with her child.

Meet Astha Mishra, one of our proud members of the Trumsy Parents Community. As a mom to a lively 7-year-old, Astha shared with us how Trumsy competitions are helping her son learn new skills and have fun at the same time: Trumsy Instagram Reel Link


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