Hilary Levey Friedman, Ph.D.
Education Professor, Brown University and President of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women (RI NOW)
Playing to Win: Raising Healthy, Competitive Children
Children’s lives today appear more competitive than ever — from standardized tests in school to select soccer teams. How did we get here and how can we help our children cope with the demands on their brains and bodies? Taking a distinct approach that draws on the work of educators, historians, and psychologists — along with her own research on over 100 families — Harvard sociologist Hilary Levey Friedman, Ph.D. discusses why our society demands competition from kids at younger and younger ages than ever before, starting at preschool and continuing into their twenties. More importantly she discusses how you can expose your children to healthy competition, how you can make more informed decisions about what instructor is right for your child, and how you can help your child select the best after school activity for him or her. While we can’t solve the problem of increased pressure on youth today on our own, together we can better understand the social forces that have created this environment and how your family can best navigate it successfully. Dr. Friedman new book, her first one, is Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture, an astute take on American middle-class children participating in competitive activities, specifically, chess, dance and soccer. She identifies five lessons and skills that parents hope their children develop from participating in competitive activities as “Competitive Kid Capital,” consisting of 1) internalizing the importance of winning; 2) bouncing back from a loss to win in the future; 3) learning how to perform within time limits; 4) learning how to succeed in stressful situations; and (5) being able to perform under the gaze of others. Dr. Friedman notes that most parents of the parents she studied worried about their kids’ lack of free time, but then states, “What is remarkable is that despite sometimes deep ambivalence, families keep their children involved in competitive activities.”