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Hey Parents Out There: Hover Much?

June 29, 2011

The Boy plays soccer. Until they are over seven years old, we aren’t allowed to keep score. We can’t even have a real goalie. Everyone gets a chance. No one fails.

What are we doing to our kids? When did competitive sports lose the competition part? Why do we hand out trophies just for showing up? Encouraging general involvement is definitely a good idea. We’re all beginners at some point. Sometimes we move on and excel, sometimes we remain average (and content with that) and sometimes we find out we’re terrible at it, or really don’t like it at all.

All of these discoveries and realities are part of developing a healthy sense of self. But why can’t we teach or kids what it’s like to win and to lose? It’s starting to feel like we’re raising a bunch of mediocre, 100-percent cotton softies.

Don’t get me wrong. It can be heartbreaking to watch your kid try and try again, failing several times in a row (it’s also time to grab the video camera). On the flip side, it’s supremely rewarding to watch them figure it out on their own.

When The Boy started kindergarten, I cried when I dropped him off. I didn’t cry because I was sad. He made me so proud that day. He happily walked into that classroom hardly looking back at me. Why wouldn’t we raise our kids to be confident, independent children? I fail to see a single reason why not.

I am pretty sure that there aren’t any C-levels wiping the bottoms of their entry-level junior salespeople.

And we should protect our kids; it’s a parental instinct. There is a fine line between protecting and isolating. The world is indeed a scarier place these days. Though I do think that if kids just watch Dateline and Lifetime on a regular basis, they can pretty much get everything they need to take care of themselves. Kidding. They need The Food Network and Discovery Health, too.

We teach them the difference between right and wrong and hot and cold, how to say please and thank you, and eventually how to drive a car. It’s also our job to teach them to navigate difficult or new scenarios.

If we constantly rescue and bail them out, what will they become? They can make decisions on their own. They can solve problems, even as toddlers. Suggestions and nudging are encouraged. Puppies get more credit these days. When was the last time you fetched the ball for your dog? Never? Thought so.

I’ll bet that the rule leaflet in board games will change any day. Where it now reads “how to win,” it should say “how to stroke your kid’s ego and make them feel good about themselves even though this game will be boring as hell.” Can you imagine the Honors Student bumper stickers? “My child is an average student at ABC Middle School.” I guess we should get rid of grades altogether. I’d hate to make anyone feel bad because my kid actually did his homework and studied for that test.

The Kids are doing swim team this summer and it’s brutal. They are expected to actually swim (and win) races! Here I thought they were all going to just tread water and smile at each other. Since it’s their first season and first place finishes are infrequent, it’s going to take months of therapy to get their feelings in check again.

Since we are all about finding someone to blame for such things these days, where should I send the bill?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Mandi permalink
    June 29, 2011 5:27 pm

    Well done my friend! And might I add well said!

  2. June 29, 2011 5:52 pm

    So true! Aren’t we supposed to teach our kids to be good losers as well as gracious winners. Now it is just enough to show up it seems. How will that philosophy work when they try to get into a college, or get a job? How will that help when they hit the chum infested waters of high school?!

    At my nieces 3 year old party this past weekend there was a pinata …. THAT YOU DID NOT HAVE TO HIT! You just pulled the strings and the candy fell out!! WHAT IN THE HECK?! Seriously … please let our kids DO something themselves!

  3. Sara permalink
    June 29, 2011 6:56 pm

    Great stuff, Jenny. I’m not a parent (yet!), but think your article is spot on. Keep up the writing – really enjoying it 🙂

  4. Kristy permalink
    June 30, 2011 7:39 am

    Perfect! Can you run this in the AJC? My dad is of the old school mentality (and a Marine) and it truly bothers him that the score is not kept at the soccer games.

  5. July 14, 2011 7:41 pm

    This is true. If every sport was set up like tennis, they would all be fair. Different levels, different abilities.

  6. Aunt Leroy permalink
    August 22, 2012 9:58 pm

    Brilliant, as usual. I’ve never understood the no score keeping, everybody plays mentality of youth leagues these days. Kids need to learn to be good losers, as well as good winners. Maybe the tide is turning (again) and your generation of adults will do away with the huggy, kissy, feel-good mentality and get back to competitive sports. Kids will learn so much more from it.

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