>> Monday, 16 January 2012
We all want our child to be one of life's winners, don't we?
We encourage them to do their best, try harder, put just that little bit more effort in. Not for ourselves, oh no, of course not - perish the thought. I mean, obviously it's nice to watch little Amy / Jimmy standing on the podium to receieve their medal, but it's all about them, isn't it? Isn't it? Yes, of course it is (and for the times it isn't, well, I'll write another post), and we push our children for their own sakes, because we want them to get the best that they can out of their lives. The best results. The best opportunities. Even - ultimately - the best jobs.
Here's the thing though, and it's an old chestnut but for all that, it's true; for every winner, there has to be a loser. In fact if we're honest about it, there have to be a whole host of losers. And unless they are a prodigy of some kind, at some point in time, your child - statistically - will be one of them.
This issue is top of mind for me because at the weekend Boy #2 had his birthday party. We try to keep things as simple as possible for these events; no entertainer, just us, some other parents willing to get down and dirty with the kids (or in this case, cold and icy for the snowman building competition), hot chocolate, pizza and birthday cake. Oh, and party games.
These party games were pretty simple; musical chairs, musical statues, pass the parcel and of course, that stalwart 'calm everybody down' standby: Sleeping Lions. (I tried to call it 'dead lions', which is how I remember it from my childhood but apparently that's not on for today's little eco-warriers). These party games were fun - and they were also revealing. Whilst many of the children at the party were perfectly able to keep the whole thing in perspective and simply enjoy the fun, some previously sunny little souls, when told that they hadn't won the game, promptly burst into tears and were inconsolable.
And yes, I know that they're 6. And that they will learn. But the experience highlighted to me that at a time when the importance of competitive sport is being down-played in many schools (football matches with no recorded score, anybody?), we may be failing to equip our children with the very important life-skill of how to lose gracefully. Because surely, if we avoid all the situations where our child is potentially a non-winner, a - say it - loser, we are not helping them in the long run.
I'm not for one moment suggesting that we all become Competitive Dad (see the clip below if you have no idea what I'm talking about) and take every opportunity to get one up on our kids in the name of educating them in Real Life. I do think though that as parents we should spend some time helping our children understand that whilst winning can be important, it isn't everything.
Children need to understand that losing a game does not mean becoming a Loser in life. Once the scrabble and ludo are put away, once the Wii has powered down, and once the mud has dried on their trainers, it's over, finished. It's one moment in time. Now, on to the next adventure.
(And then, maybe, children's birthday parties will be a little less of a minefield...)
What do you think?