Are we failing our children by denying them the right to win….. and more importantly to lose? Every weekend during football season my sons and I go to an AFL game to watch our beloved football team. They have seen my tears of elation at a Grand Final win and they have heard my moans of despair when things don’t go to plan. They have also seen that despite these wins and losses and the emotion they provoke ….life pretty much goes on the same. We wake up the next day and go about our business. Yes we may read the sports pages a little more enthusiastically after a win and may not even open them up after a loss…..but still we survive and cheer just as loud the following week with all expectations fully restored. Sunday morning however, when my three sons go off to play Auskick, junior football or any other sporting endeavour ….there are no winners and there are no losers. This extends to various aspects of school life and even the old pass the parcel game has not been spared the wrath of political correctness. Yes I get that it is all about encouragement, and fuelling a love of participation and I certainly endorse that…but my kids know that when you play a game of football…there certainly are winners…and there certainly are losers. In my household alone I have 2 sons that barrack for Geelong and one that barracks for Richmond. So the wins and losses have not been spread around evenly. The Richmond fan must continue to endure the losses whilst the Geelong fans walk in the house with yet another win on the board. But for the Richmond fan, week after week of watching his team relinquish yet another opportunity to sing the “yellow and black” may surely make the rendition all the more sweeter when it comes their turn to shine.
On the upside the kids have learnt more about their “6” times tables by having to keep score themselves than they ever will in class……especially seeing as times tables, rote learning or anything that requires them using their memories is out. (But more about that another time). During our summer holidays I watched as the children competed in little Nippers (basically surf life saving for kids under 14). It was with great gusto that so many kids not only competed and participated but also tried just that little bit harder when they knew some team points or a possible medal was up for grabs. Yes there were those that are never going to get that medal and there are those that were weighed down with the jangling of several medals around their necks. There were those who cried when they lost, there were those who hugged new friends when they won and there were those just happy to finish their event and get back to their sandcastle masterpiece. There are some events, some sports, some subjects and some endeavours that some kids excel at and some that they do not. This does not change with adulthood and thus we need to teach our children from early on that whilst participation is the most important aspect, and trying your hardest is what matters the most, there are always going to be different levels of achievement and thus we must ensure that they build up coping mechanisms to deal with disappointment as well as ensure a humbleness when they do succeed. I am not suggesting that we go and make everything a competition as I do believe that we need to ensure that those who struggle in certain areas don’t lose all desire to try new things. I do believe however, that a little exposure to winning and losing wont hurt our kids as long as it is done in a way that still encourages participation and rewards effort, but allows them to build up some resilience and coping strategies for the times ahead when the results won’t always go to plan.
What are your experiences with your kids and competition? Do you think we have become too careful in the way we approach winning and losing?