Certainly we all want our children to excel. But it takes most kids years to find their strengths; if they don’t try everything that comes their way –from kickball to spelling bees– how will they discover their passions?
One thing that parents can model is to value ‘effort’ and ‘risk’. Kids whose parents praise things like ‘trying,’ ‘giving their best effort’ and ‘finishing what they’ve started’ seem to have kids who try, give their best effort and finish things!
While competition is a great teacher, there are also times that it is as important to reward participation as achievement. Rewarding the courage to compete builds confidence and helps to combat the stigma attached to losing.
People often forget that losing is nature’s best teacher. High achieving adults we’ve interviewed confirmed that adversity and struggle (e.g. ‘losing’) taught them what they needed to do to win the next time! Kids shouldn’t be afraid of losing. Hug and praise them no matter how well or poorly they do. Go easy on the sympathy if they lose. Soft-pedal the congratulations if they win. In either case, ask them what they learned or what they’ll try next time.
Remember, your offsprings’ ‘won/loss’ record is not a reflection of your parenting skill but their attitudes, values and ethics are. Whether they win or lose you can teach them to show the same respect for everyone who competes, to push themselves toward improvement and give to their best. As with so many aspects of being a parent, it’s all in how you approach it.