EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


January 13, 2013

Life lessons about winning and losing are valuable to children

Dear Doctor,

Recently our son completed the football season on his team of 12-year-olds. At the final banquet, which was really a pizza party, trophies were handed out to a few.

We thought everyone should have received a trophy. We think the whole team did great and should have won something. Do you think we are teaching the wrong thing?

Winning Son’s Mom

Dear Mom,

I used to be where you are, but I have repented!

Children need to experience winning and losing. They need to learn about inequality as much as equality.

Let me ask you a simple question: Did you ever learn anything at a party? Other than how to have fun and make great food and drink, the answer is “no.” You learn from making an effort, pain, the thrill of victory as much as the agony of defeat.

If we succeed in shielding kids from the experiences of competition, we will have an entitled brood who will grow up unable to handle the rough and tumble of life. The “poor me” and chronic whine will be the inevitable outcome.

This does not mean your son should not take something tangible away from his experience. A T-shirt, in his mind, will be enough.

More important is what you try to teach him. Help him acknowledge and find joy in the success of the MVP. Most importantly, let him know how very proud you are of him.

Do it carefully. For example, do not say, “I am proud of you even if you did not win a trophy.” Do say, “You never quit. That is a great trait to have. Keep it up.”

In the last analysis your love of him, being there for him, and rejoicing in his fidelity and hard work will mean more to him than a whole case full of trophies.

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