Sunday, September 27, 2009

Are We Teaching Our Children About Winning AND Losing?

It's Football Sunday, And Events Have Pushed This Question Into My Mind

Are Our Kids Learning How To Lose And To Become Independent?

Now this is not earth shattering news, it does not concern Iran's nukes or Obama's Czars, but for the future of society it is one often overlooked that needs to be addressed by parents around the country. And what better day than an NFL Sunday to do it. Tomorrow it is back to the larger questions at hand.

The Simplicity Of Competition

You either come in first, or you lose. My mentality in any sport I have ever played was to give 110%, and to play to win. Little joy was taken from the fact that both teams played hard, but only one could win and it wasn't me. But that's life!

In any endeavor, play to win is the only way, but by the same token, to understand that the potential to lose also exists. Not to be happy about losing, not to get a thrill from the experience, but to accept it and understand that the next time you go out there adjustments will have to be made either within yourself, the team concept or in the style of play to improve the result. At the end of the game, you would shake the hands of the other team who got you this time, but not next time.

Kids Today Are Sheltered, Protected From The Inevitable Disappointments Or Bumps In The Road - Some examples:

Everybody makes the team or some team - no cuts

Everybody plays at least part of the game regardless of the impact on the team

Parents will talk to coaches at all levels about playing time, unable to objectively see the capabilities of their child or to respect the parent/coach relationship

Screaming at referees and kids on other teams because winning is the only option, and losing can only be the fault of someone else, not ourselves

I don't like the teacher, change my kid to another class

Classes are pass/fail because kids shouldn't be differentiated by grades.

Writing the college essay for kids helping make sure they get into the college they want

Calling Johnny's mother to find out why your son wasn't invited to his party, and then getting your son invited

It Sounds Trivial, But They All Send A Message

When kids grow up and leave the house for college or career, a parents ability to manage the expectations and results of life's road ends, or at the very least is severely curtailed. Your professor gives you a bad grade, a boss is overbearing or unfair or a relationship hits the rocks, it is up to your child to handle it, resolve it, or not. We are out of the loop, but have they been adequately prepared for that eventuality?

By teaching children that losing, or disappointments, are extremely rare or that any unpleasant situation can be resolved to an acceptable result, we are implanting unreasonable expectations and a sense of entitlement that does not exist in "real life". There are going to be winners, and there are going to be losers. That is the reality.

While nobody wants to see a kid crying or devastated from disappointment, parents have to use them as a tool to teach life's lessons. When kids see parents getting on the phone to talk to the league commissioner to try and push their son or daughter onto a team they probably don't belong on, you are teaching them a dangerous lesson that at some point will come back to haunt them or you.

Play hard, try hard, fight hard, work hard and give 110%, and if it wasn't good enough this time, it may be next time. Shake hands and move on.


  1. Michael-
    Thanks for your post.
    There is a natural human tendency to take away pain from our fellow humans. However, as one competing youth football coach once told me if it isn't about winning then why keep score?(believe me I understand what win at all costs without integrity or ethics can create and I am not at all advocating this either.)
    It is my belief that "pain" of loss is what causes innovation and growth. Otherwise why get better? We would all be sitting in caves still. Thus it is a disservice to our kids to teach them anything but win / loss. Despite societies ramblings and drivel. Anything else simply doesn't work.You can still respect your opponent and love them while competing. We just won big yesterday and we the Coaches each said we hope to see each other again in the playoffs. The other Head Coach told me once again "Tim Best of luck the rest of the season". Its a mutual respect however I am certain if we face them again he and his boys will intend on beating us back, as we would expect them to. We would expect nothing less and that is why the boys play and we coach.Competition.

  2. Thanks for the comment Tim. Great example.

    My son was just telling me that because his 8th grade soccer team does not make cuts, given the size of the roster each kid has to play at least a quarter of the game.

    Now this is a perfect example of how seeking to avoid the experience that not everyone is always worthy, the rest of the team has to suffer by having weak players on the field and in the goal.

    Is the good of the one more important than the good of a team?

  3. dr. mike, your the professional i want to confer with when my son or daughter has issues on sports teams....please state your this dr.spock?

  4. liberal and democrat