Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Losing - It's a Good Thing

My Buddy's second year at the Cub Scout pinewood derby proved to be a learning experience for us all. For those of you that have sons who ran a car in a pinewood derby, you know the work that is involved in this very important race.  And as much as the Pack leaders stress that this is "for the boys" and "let the boys make the car as much as possible", some of the cars are amazing feats......of Dad's skills.  We live in Dell country...with a lot of engineers.....thus we had some pretty amazing cars show up for the race.

Nevertheless, Matt was determined to give Brody as much hand's on experience while making the car.  They didn't need to make any fancy tank or spaceship or aircraft carrier out of the block of wood - their goal was to make it a sleek & fast car.  They even traveled all the way up to Dallas to use PaPa's wood-working tools.  And they had a great weekend making the car with PaPa....even sneaking in a boys movie and some pizza while they were there.  Was it great bonding time for them?  Yes - and that is what this is all about.

The next weekend was the race.  For those of you with girls - this is the track. Two cars are set on top and released at the same time.


They go zooming down the track and the one that crosses the finish line first wins.  They run tons of heats to determine a winner.  Now, you'd think it would be a simple process to make a car go fast.  Wrong - there is so much to do with the size of the wheels, how close they are to the car, the aerodynamincs of the car, and blah blah blah (this is where they lost me).  

And we don't have the magic formula. You see the red car?  That was Brody's.  And unfortunately, he lost more races than won.

Here is his sweet sister trying to encourage him as he became more and more upset by the losses.

 And here is his dad, equally puzzled by the performance of the red car.

As sad as I was to see all that hard work go into the car, I was fine with losing.  Broday wasn't and as much as I tried to tell him that he did great, losing hurts but it's good to build character, it makes you try harder, etc.......it went in one ear and out the other.

Even Dad couldn't lift his spirits.

It is hard for an 8 year old (who has competition running in his blood) to accept losing.  He was raised in a society where everyone gets a trophy for playing a season of soccer (even though they lost every game),  everyone gets an award at school (even if we have to make it up - seriously - "Improvement in Science projects?"), and everyone gets a gift at the birthday parties (the goodie bags are outrageous y'all!!).  We award mediocrity and not who truly is the best.  We want everyone to feel fair in a competition.  We want everyone to get a ribbon for participation.

I remember as a child NOT getting an award for Good Grades at the Assembly and it would make me work hard to ensure I got one the next time.  I remember never getting a trophy for the sports I played and it made me want to perform better to try to earn one.  Competition is what shaped me to create goals and strive hard to achieve them.  Losing didn't make me go and sulk in a corner - it make me work harder.  

I recognize that not every child wants to win the award and losing would have the opposite effect.  However, I think we have created this problem.  When Brody lost race after race, I could see his confidence slowly disappear, his shoulders slump, and his face get all set in knots.  And that is ok to have that reaction as long as you do something with it.

Unfortunately, my buddy sulked for a few hours.  And talking to him only made it worse.  We let him be and a few hours later it was in the past.  

This mom thinks Losing is a great thing.  The less and less we reward mediocrity and really praise them for their hard work and determination, they will see that Losing is a character building moment.  And try harder the next time.  Cause you know they already have a plan on how to win the race next year!!


14 comments:

Connie said...

Love this post Becca!

This is exactly how we feel and why we're avoiding certain schools that give a participation ribbon for everything. That doesn't teach a kid anything!

Impulsive Addict said...

This was a big pet peeve of mine as a teacher! If you enroll him in a Title 1 school, they will be too poor to give a reward to everyone. Just a suggestion.

I'm so glad we are new friends. We can thank those skanks Jenny, Shawn, Viv, and Myaa for not introducing us sooner.

Darling's said...

AGREED! Great post, Becca!

Meghan said...

I can just picture the disappointment on his face! BUT - thanks to Mom and Dad for having the STRENGTH to let him learn this tough, but important lesson!

Christina said...

Right on!!!!

Mocha with Linda said...

Amen! Don't even get started on either of these topics, Dad Scout Derby OR the "everyone's a winner" mentality. My husband was so disillusioned and disappointed. He had great memories of doing it (himself!) as a child and wanted to teach our boy how to do it. He did, and of course our son never won.

And I was just remembering the other day how irritated I was when a woman stayed at my then-four-year-old's (girl's) birthday party with her rowdy 2 y.o. boy and allowed him not only to make a complete mess of everything (it was a puzzle party) but had the audacity to ask if I had an activity/favor for him so he wouldn't feel left out. Grrr. I told her "No, this is a party for 4-year-olds." That was pretty assertive for me; if I had had more backbone, I would have made her sort all the puzzle pieces.

THey are finding that young adults today are having trouble assimilating into the work force because suddenly no one is telling them how wonderful they are. Go figure.

Stepping away from the soabox now...

Myya said...

What a great learning experience!
Ok so I just have to say... IA doesn't get to classify me in the skank category because you & I just met too. LOL. :) Oh & she totally spelled my name wrong... I'll have to give her a bad time about being a teacher & all, especially when we email each other. Pfffttt!

Charon Benton said...

Amen honey!! I couldn't agree MORE! ! LOVE IT!!

Shawn said...

Losing is a hard but important life lesson! What's most important is the fun he had with his Daddy and PaPa!

Christie in Dallas, TX said...

I absolutely agree -- our kids are rewarded for attempts, which has some merit, but they will never stretch themselves if they are always told it's okay just to try. They will never find their limits and push through them. They will never learn that some things are worth the hard work that it takes! Great post!

Jen said...

Oh I can TOTALLY see William in this post - and you're right - kids learn SO much from losing - it's an important lesson! Our parks and rec gives each kid that participates in soccer a TROPHY - no losers here! Everyone wins? Not sure what that teaches....

Keri said...

Preach it!!! I took a stand against giving gifts to kids for coming to a party that I paid for a long time ago. I think that tradition is just stupid. And our current reward system does nothing but reward mediocrity. Why try when you're going to get rewarded no matter what you do? To say that living in a society now that is highly competitive but does not feel the need to reward everyone has been a great eye opener for all of us. It's healthy to lose. Heck, it's real life! It's not like you interview for a job, don't get it and have the boss still offer you a bonus JUST FOR TRYING!! Geesh!

jennykate77 said...

I totally agree!! I've thought about this same thing...how everyone is rewarded and recognized. I think it takes away from when you truly are the best, and makes it a little less special. Losing definitley builds character and makes us learn to work for the things we want. I remember the year I lost at cheerleading tryouts. I worked harder that year than I ever had before. I increased my days at the gym and worked with an older cheerleader on technique. It was definitely a growing and learning experience for me. Something I've taken with me to other areas of my life.

Losing is good!

Vivienne said...

AY-MEN! Preach it sistah! I could have typed up this post myself. I can't possibly agree with you more.
I'm sorry that Brody (and Matt) didn't win the derby, but they will have more father/son time as they try to improve NEXT year's car.

(I liked his color the best...)

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