Winning and Losing

How do you handle wins and losses?

Our oldest dressed for his team’s game and watched as they went up by many points. Early in the second half it looked like a potential blowout. But the other team kept playing, our team made mistakes, confidences got shaken, and what should have been a blow out ended up with the opposition winning soundly. It was a tough night.

The next morning after a good nights sleep washed most of the sting of the loss away, my son and I talked about the game. “Any thoughts on yesterday’s game?” I asked. He was quiet for a few moments. I couldn’t tell if he hadn’t heard me or was thinking about his answer. Just as I was going to ask another question he replied. “You know, I’ve been thinking about what my soccer coach in elementary school used to ask us after a loss — did they win, or did we lose? — I think we lost yesterday.” Whoa, I thought, that was profound. He’s really thinking about this at a deeper level, and processing what happened. I agreed with him on them losing. He talked for a few minutes on his view of why the loss occurred and what he’d fix if given the chance (plays he’d run, positions he’d have switched out to keep everyone with enough energy to play their best, etc.). He talked like a mature adult, with great leadership potential. I was both a little surprised and very impressed. I was reminded he is 15, a young man, stepping out of the shadow of his younger self. Gulp! Time truly is going fast.

Winning feels good. Losing doesn’t, but you learn so much more when things don’t go as you hoped or planned. You learn about yourself – what you’d do differently and improve the next time, and others – what’s within your control (not much) and what isn’t — and how to digest the pain in a way that helps you process the situation and moves you toward positive personal growth.

How do you help your child when they lose? How are you helping them see the upside of not winning, and the opportunity for growth?

Read This!

I was fortunate enough to see a family member participate in a city-wide reading competition. I had never heard of a reading competition before. I thought perhaps it had to do speed reading, but learned it had nothing to do with that at all. Instead, the competition was based on 4th and 5th graders who were given a list of 10 books to read. They then participated in competitions where they were asked a series of questions (some multiple choice, true/false or short answer) that tested the kids knowledge and comprehension of the books.

It was one of the best competitions I’ve ever seen. There were several things I really liked about it. First, the books the kids had to read were all educational: they taught the kids about the world, appreciation for different cultures and experiences. Second, the teams had to work closely together to come up with their answers. It was similar to watching a team sport where everyone needs each other to be successful. Third, the supporters: parents, classmates and family members (such as myself), were rooting for all of the kids — it was impossible not to. These kids had learned so much and were so eager to work as a team. Yes, you may have wanted your child (or family member) team to come out on top, but it was clear that all of these kids had and were accomplishing something great regardless who the “winner” was. When the winner was named, it was a non-event. It seemed like the best part (the actual competition) was over, and this was an after-thought. I’ve never experienced anything like it, but certainly hope to again.

In an age where competition is king, it gives me hope that there are competitions like this one. The kids learned, they had fun and even got to showcase their talents on a big (public) stage with people rooting them on.

What competitions has your child participated in that seemed different from the rest? What brings the best out in your child?

The Envelope Please…

There is something seductive about the Oscar ceremony. You watch an award show for people clearly gifted in their talent, looking their finest, with great attention to detail, including the envelopes that hold the names of the winners. The seduction part is how easy it is to believe that personal success and accomplishment comes only from winning an award. That your ability to be successful is determined by others (those deciding who win the awards) and not you.

As an adult this isn’t lost on me. I bought into the notion that success was measured by others early in my career and continued to believe it until I had children of my own. Who doesn’t want to win an award for their work? Who doesn’t want to be recognized or acknowledged for their skills?

As a parent I don’t want my children to buy into this idea that success is determined by anyone but them. A statue, trophy or plaque is lovely to receive and feels good, but it doesn’t define who you are as a person. It doesn’t define if your work or life is a success.

My boys are at the age where they are exposed to competition at school and in the play yard. My oldest loves keeping score. When he loses he gets upset. He gets angry with frustration when he tries his hardest and the end score doesn’t reflect his efforts. “I did so good,” he says with a mixture of surprise, and disappointment, “how come my score isn’t better?” His face scrunches up and he balls up his fists. He makes a errrr sound in frustration. My husband and I talk to our so about the progress that he made when he played and while he may not have won, how he is getting more skilled and improving every time he tries. “Everything you want to be good at takes practice,” we tell him, “and lots of it.” You can see his mind working. It’s a good opportunity for us to teach him about what success really is.

“Do you have to win to be successful?” I ask my son. He looks up at me with questioning eyes, like he wants to say yes, but realizes I wouldn’t ask this question if it were the answer. I continue, “success is when you learn something about yourself and grow. You might receive a statue, trophy or medal along the way, but those items don’t determine who you are. You do.” He seems to understand what I’m saying, but you can still see he’d prefer to just win trophies, or get the highest score. Just like I did as a kid.

What is success for you? What is success for your child? How do you help them determine the value they bring?