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Note from Kresha: I so appreciate these words from Heather Harris today – they're needed in our family, for sure! I encourage you to check out Heather's other posts around the topics of sports and excellence as well: To the Parents of Kids in Sports and Learn to Defend Yourself (this one is especially cool!).
If you have kids that are involved in any activity, I am sure you have seen them.
The parents who are cheering the kids from the sidelines. Those parents. They are the ones that are yelling at the coach, umpire, or judges if their child isn't the star of the team. They want their child to WIN-WIN-WIN at all costs, and are quite vocal about it. Many to the point of being embarrassing for other parents, their children, and anyone else listening.
As a mother of 3 awesome kids, I can understand the desire to have your child be number one.
Honestly, who doesn't want their child to feel that rush of awesomeness at winning first place, getting that trophy, catching that winning out, performing a dance routine flawlessly, swimming that heat in record time? Being a winner is amazing! But, is that what it's really all about?
My kids have been involved in sports from the time they were in kindergarten.
As a home school family, it was important for us to have our kids interact with kids from the “other side of the fence”. We wanted to instill in them a sense of teamwork, camaraderie and good sportsmanship from an early age. We also wanted them to get that feeling of accomplishment when they won at their sport.
However, we taught them to lose.
I am sure there are gasps of “what?” coming out, but let me explain.
We wanted our kids to lose, plain and simple.
We wanted them to feel that disappointment when they dropped that fly ball, came in last at the swim meet, or last place at a taekwondo tournament. Not because we are sadistic and want to hurt our children intentionally, but because we wanted them to understand that winning isn't everything.
When you are always number one, more often than not, you lose motivation to keep trying, to keep pushing to be better, to keep learning more. We wanted our kids to always try harder to learn, try harder to improve and try harder to understand their sport better. When they experienced losing, we made sure to let them know that they tried their best and that was all they could do. Their best was good enough, no matter the outcome.
As a result, our kids understand that sometimes life isn't fair.
That hard reality is fully understood at not always taking home the trophy. They are okay with that, really. They have developed a better sense of good sportsmanship, and are often first to encourage their teammates or even their opponents.
My son has spoken more often about sparring matches he lost and how awesome the challenge was than the matches he won. The challenge was more fun, and pushed him to try harder. Not for us, or his coaches, but for HIM.
And, when they DO win first place, the sweetness of that is even more rewarding. They know that they had to work hard for that first place and understood that victory was EARNED. Frankly, they learn more from losing than they do at winning all the time.
Now, of course, we want the best for our kids.
All parents do, right? And, having your child being the best at their chosen activity doesn't make them a sore winner, or sore loser. That doesn't mean that you are the parent who is living vicariously through their child and yelling at coaches or kids to win. Your child may just be truly gifted in that area. Or your child may be pushing hard and working hard on the off time to win.
My challenge to each of us parents is to make sure our children know that it's okay to lose and that we still love them. My challenge for each of us is to encourage our children to try harder, and work past disappointment and keep going. To persevere and work harder for that goal. And, when the going gets tough, to not give up ever.
As Arnold Schwarzenegger has said, “Don't be afraid to fail, that is the secret of success”.