I’ll start this out with every child does NOT need a trophy. Every child does not deserve a trophy. And every child is not a winner. I’m not going to get into medical or psychological studies in this post. I’m mostly going to rant and give you my 2 cents on why every kid needs to know what it feels like to not be special, not be #1, and not win all the time. Yes, there ARE benefits to showing a kid that losing sucks, and why striving to be better and chasing the win will make them a better person in the long run.
Now before you go yelling at me about how every kid needs to feel special and needs a participation award, blah blah…stop and think about the negative effects of this coddling. Off the bat, I think of one huge repercussion to not letting a kid lose; they are never given the opportunity to learn one of the biggest lessons in life – how to deal with defeat. This can spiral into a bunch of things like:
How to get up after getting knocked down
How to strive to be better
How to never quit, and so on…
That last one was pounded into my head by my drill sergeant at basic training - never quit, never turn back, keep fighting. It’s now reiterated a different way by my current company commander, “find an excuse to win”. Now circling back around, if you deny a kid the opportunity to lose, how are they going to develop that intestinal fortitude to keep going, keep trying to succeed, to keep getting up after falling down?!?! The short answer is they aren’t going to learn that skill. And yes, it’s a skill. Everyone is not born with this special ability. It needs to be trained and developed over a long period of time and after many losses.
Be a coach
However, some do develop this skill faster than others and you, as the parent, can “coach” your kids to deal with loss and encourage them to try harder for next time. You’ll have to balance out when you can start training them, but I advise doing it sooner than later. You just have to make sure that the kid is mature enough to know the difference of winning and losing and that if they lose now, they won’t be losers forever. Start with these few tips (for multiple aged kids – pick and choose as necessary):
Say “no”! – For young kids you can start weathering them with little disappointments (no TV, no dessert, no you can’t have that remote control truck at the store even if your father wants it!). By getting them used to small disappointments, you start to make your kid more tough and resilient.
Say “it’s ok.” – Let them know after a loss or disappointment that these things happen, it’s a part of life and even pro athletes like (insert favorite sports star here) lose from time to time. Even though it feels shitty now, in the long run, it will only make them stronger. They just have to train harder and make small improvements to be better for next go around.
Say nothing...until it’s the right time. – If the kid throws a temper tantrum for losing, striking out, or getting beat in some fashion…let them work it out for a little period of time. Yelling at them to calm down, or for throwing the fit will probably just infuriate them more. You can use some techniques for young kids from my previous post here about temper tantrums. For older kids, you’re just not going to reach them when they’re in this mind set. Wait for them to relax, and then explain that telling the ref he was an asshole was probably not the best course of action.
Say what they did wrong and how to fix it for next time. – “Compliment sandwich” them and provide constructive criticism. Tell them a good thing they did, a better way to do it, and the outcome of doing it the better way. For older kids, you can have them reflect about what to do differently for next time instead of just telling them. This is where “coaching” comes into play. How to do things better for next time so that maybe they’ll win, or just have a better outcome in general.
As a side note here, I’m all for participation and cycling kids through positions to get them playing time, even if they do suck at the sport. Hey, they never know how good they are until they try something…and sometimes it takes a couple seasons for the kids (and parents) to realize that maybe that sport, hobby, or whatever, isn’t right for the kid. To reiterate, don't deny the kids the ability to grow and develop the skill of "failing forward". Teach them to deal with defeat early and later on they'll have an inner drive to never give up on their goals, aspirations and dreams. There’s no denying that Michael Jordan is probably one of the best basketball players of all time. To end this post, I’ll leave you with this:
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