Being a parent is complicated. To be entrusted with the safety and development of a child is no small task. We all have moments in which we are incredibly proud of our children and as well as those moments when we just aren’t sure how to proceed. The thing I know for sure is that children learn from each and every experience and that lesson informs them on how to proceed the next time they are in a similar situation.
I know also that these children go on to become teenagers and then adults, at which point failure is certain. I don’t mean to imply that life is bad or your children or my children in particular won’t amount to anything. On the contrary, it is when we fail that we learn how to change our tactics so that we can succeed. Without failure, success is very difficult.
But failure is hard. It hurts. It’s confusing. It can make us, even as adults, question our self worth. So imagine how difficult failure is for a child, a teenager, or a young adult when he or she hasn’t learned how to cope with those feelings and pick him or herself up and move on.
EVERYBODY CAN’T GET A TROPHY
When participation is rewarded instead of winning, what lesson are we teaching our children? Participation — or “showing up” — should be it’s own reward. When we expect an award, a present, or some version of accolades just for showing up, we are missing the point. Now for some, just getting there is indeed a big deal. But it is just the start. Children need to know what to do after they show up. And we need to teach them.
The positive side of sports involvement (or anything competitive) at a young age is that there are two options: you either win or you lose. When we take that away from our children, we are robbing them of a safe environment in which to feel the disappointment that comes with losing or the opportunity of winning with grace.
GOODY BAGS ARE NOT REAL LIFE
As adults, why do we socialize? Hopefully it’s because we enjoy the company of those we are with or the experience of meeting new people or trying new things. Personally, I don’t always like to socialize with people I don’t already know. The pressure of small talk is no reward for me. I enjoy settings in which I can talk to my friends and am able to relax for a bit and not have to check things off my to-do list. This is why I socialize – not because I expect something in return. For me, seeing my friends is the reward.
When my children attend a birthday party for a friend, my wish is that they enjoy the time playing with that friend. My hope is they are happy just to be there and that the celebration and playtime feel like the reward. What I don’t want is for them to ask for a goody bag when we leave or to feel like they deserve a prize for coming to the party.
ACCEPTING NO FOR AN ANSWER
Boys and girls alike need to know this: no means no. No doesn’t mean you find a way to work around the rules and do it anyway because the rules don’t really apply to you. No doesn’t mean you force your way into a situation and to try to change someone’s mind. And no doesn’t mean you can choose to be violent and hurt someone because they gave you an answer you didn’t like or didn’t react in a way you wanted them to.
By helping our children understand that they need to know how to accept no for answer, we are also letting them know it is OK to give no as an answer. But if we don’t tell them “no” ourselves from time to time, we are not helping them learn that lesson.
WANTING THE BEST FOR OUR KIDS
We all want the best for our children. None of us want our children to feel hurt or disappointment because we’ve been there — we know how it feels. But sparing them those moments of failure robs them of the opportunity to grow and mature. You can help them through those times by sharing moments from your life with them when you failed and how it worked out in a way you could have never imagined. And by failing themselves, they will then have those stories to share with their own children.
Without those moments or stories, who is to say we won’t become a society that sits around waiting for our trophies and goody bags who are prone to fits of anger or violence when we don’t get them? Who’s to say that isn’t already happening?
Start your list now: what failures in your life are you grateful for? How is your life better today because of failures you had the opportunity to have?