Family Relationships

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Competition and Cooperation

Yesterday, in honor of Father's Day, we started a blog series about how to better understand the men in our lives. We looked at how their conversations often revolve around how to fix things, solve a problem, accomplish a goal - that is, when they're not about the score of the latest, or a classic old, game.

Visiting this week with our three young grandsons, it is easy to see how this focus develops early. As we watch them play together, and play with them, it is striking how many of their activities involve competition. Playing H-O-R-S-E on the garage basketball net or hockey in the basement with makeshift goals or baseball at the park - it's mostly about winning, being the best, outperforming the others. Even when we are working together building electric circuits, their need to "be first" - at each and every step - often overwhelms their interest in learning how to create something new. There's no denying that each of the boys seem to feel the need to be at the top of the food chain - it's almost as it their confidence and self-worth depend on it.

We women attempt to socialize the boys and encourage them toward cooperation. But, in most cases, their default is to treat each other as rivals to be beaten. Boys' play tests their abilities to relate to one another through competition as they vie for position. More concrete than girls, they don't generally share their emotions. When they do, usually it's anger and hurt that spill out in response to some slight. Tomorrow, we'll look at how these early differences are reflected in our on-going relations with other males every day.

To read more about grandchildren and our bonds with them, click on the title above to take you to an article on our website,, entitled "Create Meaningful Bonds with Your Grandchildren Across the Miles."

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