Every Child Is A Winner….. Right?
Every child’s a winner, right? My initial answer is, yes, of course they are. But in life, is that realistic? What if I added that there was always going to be someone better than you, faster than you, more dedicated than you, smarter than you? How would you manage that? How would you feel having experienced a lifetime of people telling you that you are the best and that you are a winner, even when maybe you weren’t?
We do it to our children all the time. This idea that every child at the party gets a present in the pass the parcel. Or that every child gets a medal for showing up regardless of the effort they put in.
What does all this reward for participating create? Children who can’t cope when they are faced with someone better than them. Adults who give up and crumble when they miss out on achieving that thing they worked on. Learning to lose (and lose graciously) is a life skill. It’s a real-life navigation of the real world, where not everything is going to go your way simply because you tried.
We’ve all been there. Didn’t get that job, didn’t win that race, lost that grand final, were beaten in that test… Think back to how you coped with this? Did you lay down and give up, or did you mourn your loss for a short time then set goals to pick yourself up and try again? Or did you come to a realisation that maybe your dreams of being an Olympic Ice Skater were a little unrealistic, or perhaps you needed to put in loads more work to make it happen?
Resilience is a life skill that we should be teaching our children from early on. Life doesn’t reward you for simply showing up. And if it does, you really are one of a few very lucky people. For the majority of us, life involves hard work, perseverance and practice. In short, resilience. The ability to take it on the chin and try again.
I have two daughters, two years apart in age. Both are fiercely competitive, and both are great at lots of things. But they are not great at everything. Over the years we’ve had so many chats about why they didn’t win – “but I tried so hard! I put in lots of effort! But I wanted to win!”. As their mother, my heart breaks for them. Wouldn’t it be awesome if every time your child tried something, they were amazing and completely aced it? Think of the saving in conversations, meltdowns, tears and frustration. How much easier would my life be, not having to explain why that child is faster, stronger, better or smarter than mine? But then how would they navigate the real world where failure is a part of getting to know yourself, and building character?
Some days I think I have enough character to last a lifetime. But some of the lessons I’ve learnt, the really good ones, have been through failing, getting back up and realising I have more work to do.
In our house, our favourite Disney Princess is Tiarna, from The Princess and The Frog. Because Tiarna knew that all good things come from perseverance and hard work. And sometimes you have to lose a little before you can really appreciate the win.
When you teach children to understand losing, you teach them to deal with life. Bring out the first place medals I say. We all need things to aspire to.