Family

Allowing Our Children to Feel the Sting of Losing

Our family is in full-on Olympic mode.

We’ve allotted a bit of time each evening to watch some of the events together as a family.  We recently scrolled through a list of the events, and the boys were shocked to see medal bearing competitions in badminton, trampoline, and ping-pong…I mean table tennis.  We decided to take a quick peek at the table tennis and badminton events.  The boys remarked at how silly they thought these competitions were.

“Why in the world would anyone want to make ping pong so competitive (and funny to watch)?  Look at how serious they are!  Mom, they are sweating…they are sweating playing ping-pong!,” they exclaimed.

This made me chuckle.  This statement was coming from a group of boys that makes even the most mundane activity into a competitive sport.  Like who could throw a frisbee over the roof of the house or who could mow the lawn the fastest or who could register the fastest bike speed on the street’s digital speed limit sign.  Anything and everything usually turns into a competition in my house.

As silly as some of these events may appear to us, it reaffirms to me the competitive spirit that is stored up within each of us.  Whether you are an athlete, a musician, a writer, a hunter, a hiker, a fisherman, an artist, a cook, or an entrepreneur, we are wired to strive.

There is one guarantee in competition:  someone will win, and someone will lose.  There’s no way around it.

When my children were young I noticed an alarming trend beginning.  There were no winners or losers in competition.  Whether you finished first or last, everyone was a winner just for trying.

We live in a “Trophies for Everyone” society.  A society that wants to insulate our youth from the negative feelings associated with losing.  What a great disservice this thinking is doing to our youth.  One of the greatest motivators in life is losing.  Just listen to some of our Olympic athletes talk about how past failures have pushed them to work harder and set new goals.

One day our children will be the adults of the world.  They will experience disappointment and defeat, and no one will be there to give them a ribbon or shiny trophy just for trying.  There will be promotions that slip away.  Quotas that are not met.   Elections that are lost.  The list can go on and on.    They must know how to deal with failure.  They must be taught how to take that loss and use it for the good.

Here are four steps that we have focused on with our boys:

Prepare
Whether you are taking a test or taking part in a competition, you must go into the event prepared.  This requires consistent, dedicated work before the actual event.  Your input directly correlates to your output.  Basically, what you put in is usually what you will get out.

Try Your Best
Whatever you do, give it your all.  Don’t leave anything on the table. Put out your best effort and push yourself.  Win or lose, be happy with what you did.  Most importantly:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
I Corinthians 10:31

Experience
Allow yourself to experience the thrill of victory but do not deny yourself feeling the agony of defeat should that be the outcome.  Be a good sport in winning and losing.  Congratulate others.  Have a moment.  If you need to cry…cry.  If you need to sit quietly…do it.  Allow yourself to process.  When losing comes do not brush it off, do not pretend that it is not there, do not store up your feelings inside.   Deal with it and then let it go.  Use it for motivation.  Use it as inspiration.  Above all else do not let winning or losing define who you are.

Learn
Take time to evaluate.  Is there something that I could have done differently?

These are not revolutionary ideas.  They are common sense ideas.  Don’t get me wrong, instilling these ideas is not always easy.  All of my children react to winning and losing in their own way.  One is a bit too casual, one gets it pretty well, and one, well, let’s just say, we’re still working on it.

My kids have heard me say this over and over again;

If you are going to try to win, you must be willing to lose as well.

 

 

 

 

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