Rejecting the competition culture means acknowledging to your child that there may always be a metric comparing them against others their age, but their ranking in that competition is wholly unrelated to their intrinsic worth. That’s not to say there can’t be value in competition, but it’s up to the adult to monitor and model for a child the difference between healthy motivation and unrealistic expectations. Rejecting the culture means actively talking to kids about how the society we live in may place a lot of emphasis on where you go to college or simply that you go to college, but that as a parent you place value on the bigger picture that gets lost in this narrow focus–you value your child finding a fulfilling path and a life that aligns with their values, goals, and beliefs. This might be explicitly communicated with your child, but it will be indirectly communicated through comments and reactions to all things on the topic of school, grades, and post-grad.
For adolescents starting to think about post-grad, it could be beneficial to bring up the differences in other countries compared to the U.S., like how in Europe it’s common to take a gap year or even several instead of going straight into more school after secondary school. Openly talking about options that aren’t just academia for post-grad, such as apprenticeships, volunteering abroad, two year colleges, etc., removes the stigma of not being conventionally college bound, or at least not being college bound immediately after high school. When a student can have these alternatives in mind, it can ease a tremendous amount of pressure and effectively help their school performance.