Thursday, June 13, 2013

Learning A Tough Lesson

Before having kids, I would have been the first one to gripe about the reward-rich society we've become.  Children get trophies and blue ribbons for just participating in a sport or activity.  They have no idea what it was like when I was a kid to actually have to be first place winners to earn such things.  They have no idea what it was like to NOT win and NOT be recognized.  I was almost too passionate about the topic and had this unspoken vow in mind that my kids would be taught how real life really works!

Tough words, for such a softy dad, eh?  Turns out as I have watched the twins develop and participate, I really enjoy every little trinket they get...even if its a participation reward.  In watching this occur I feel torn about my former stance and how in some ways I've betrayed those standards by willingly and happily witnessing that mentality benefit my family.  But then I remind myself that building self esteem is good and that they will have plenty of time to learn of the harsh realities of real life.

Well one such reality hit my daughter square in the face yesterday as she left soccer camp in tears.  This camp hands out first, second, and third place ribbons at the end of each day to the three top teams.  She was not on those teams and it pained her to see all the kids that had awards whilst her hands were left empty.  Again, those mixed feelings of mine came rushing back.  Part of me was grateful that she was getting a life lesson, tough though it may be.  But I did not delight in her pain.  Instead I put my arm around her and explained what was going on in the best seven-year-old logic I could muster.  I even refused a generous offer from one of Michael's friends as he tried to hand Mackenzie his ribbon.  Because even though I am no longer so emphatic about the topic, I still want and need her to learn how life really does work.

And soon the tears dried up and her biggest concern was what movie we'd watch that evening.  So I think we can afford to take the two extremes and meet in the middle. Let's build self esteem and not create an overly competitive environment for our kids.  But let's also reward according to accomplishment instead of entitlement.