Champion Children: Everybody Does Not Win!

by Donovan Grant on May 30, 2011

Champion Children: Everybody Does Not Win!

By Donovan Grant

"Too many victories weaken you. The defeated can rise up stronger than the victor" ~ Muhammad Ali

Kids are being confused about winning and being their best. In fact, in the UK many schools have withdrawn competitive sports from the curriculum and have replaced it with softer ‘sport for all’ activities. On the other hand children are been judged on how many A* results they achieve in their academic exams.

Now correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the schools sending mixed messages here? It’s ok to give it your best in your school work and get rewarded for being academically gifted. But, what about the confidence of the children who struggle to keep up in class or even get a C grade? This seems to be ok to some people. Yet on the sports field we seem to care more about the less talented guy or girl. We don’t want them to develop low self esteem or confidence because they do not perform as well as others.

Why do we send our kids to school?

As parents we all send our children to school to maximise the development of the child. We want to raise confident children. They learn the 3 R’s; Reading, Writing and Arithmetic with a splash of science and humanities thrown in for good measure. As they go on to senior schools they take on board other languages like French or Spanish, they learn about money and the economy and they get up to speed on social sciences. They do play sports too, however this is on the decline!

What about the schools’ academic performance tables?

Every year around October time, parents will be rushing to get an early sight of the school performance league tables for the most recent results. Parents #1 question (quite rightly) is what is the best performing school that I can send my child to? And how can I get my child in the school of my choice? Parents know their kids are in competition with other families, so they want to be a step ahead!

It’s no surprise to you that the schools at the top of the league bask in the glory of how well their students are doing. While the schools at the bottom lick their wounds in preparation for a better year next time around. All schools know they are competing because in reality they want the best calibre of confident students to attend their schools.

Is building self-confidence in children on the agenda?

Let’s not kid ourselves the parents and the schools have got their own agendas. It seems like the young students are just pawns on a chess board…

  • Is it competitive for a family to attend church allied with a faith school 1-2 years prior to get their child in a ‘good’ school?
  • Is it competitive for a family to move home to an address in very close proximity to the school?
  • Is it competitive for a school to say we only take the top 200 out of 1,000 applications to a school?

I’ll let you decide…

What’s wrong with teaching about failure as part of the development of the child?

Let’s face it we are grooming our children to be the next generation of adults. If they don’t know how to accept and bounce back gracefully from failure, there is going to be a big problem. You may not have noticed it, but our children meet more people telling them about their limitations than they do about their potential. So it’s time that we increase their confidence and give them a new message about defeat.

Instead of shielding them from it, why don’t we say it’s ok to fail? Why don’t we say that everything counts; our training, our sleep pattern, our emotions and out attitude? Why don’t we say, our performance can suffer if we slip up or we neglect to do the basics? Why don’t we say if we give 100% and we still lose or fail, then we have nothing to beat ourselves up for!

We can help a child learn to ask themselves different questions about failure; “what went well?” and “what could I do different next time to improve my results?”

There is no one size fits all

Our three children love sports and they are all competitive. Taking part is fun for them but the thing is they all play to win. They all take challenges and defeat in a different way and with a different temperament. Although we have to coach them differently we keep the same message “it’s ok to fail!”

How about your kids, what skills do you teach them about failure and confidence? The thing is- if we want to increase our children’s winning rates, we need to keep them challenged and talk to them about failures. When we continue to share the message that every failure brings with it the seed of a future victory, it will help build their confidence and self esteem step by step. Let’s help children to get even more success and be the best that they can be!

I believe in you and your dreams.

Ps. Got a comment about children and failure? It would be great to share your insights with our faithful readers. Leave a message below . . .

Donovan Grant is a coach, mentor, blogger, speaker and IT professional who brings his wisdom of parenting for the last 21 years and coaching clients through the stages of raising youth and empowering leaders with life lessons that are changing generations.  He is a passionate and committed leader who believes that we all have the ability to help to change someone else’s life. Actively doing so as a catalyst for many years he teaches how to live a life of success, balance, integrity and fun, whether at work or at play.

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  • Dear Donovan,
    It is like you took those words right out of my mouth! I have 3 sons, 2 of whom are extremely athletically talented (identical twins). At their first primary school, there was always tension because every athletic event they played their very best. The parents and teachers used to get upset. “Everyone” should be able to feel good about themselves…they wanted my sons to “dumb down” their play to help everyone else “feel better”. That’s ok I guess except there was one problem. No one asked the academically gifted kids to “dumb down” in their studies so everyone could “feel good”. While I agree no one should be made to feel less because they are not the star of whatever team they play on you also can’t convince kids that they are the best if they aren’t. Kids are  very smart. They know who the best ball player is, the best artist is, the best at math. To me, the problem is with some of the adults that are drawn to coach kids. Check out http://www.positivecoach.org/.
    They have many discussions on this topic.
    Thanks Donovan for this post.

  • As a mother of 4, I know that it is important for kids to have times they win, lose and  also learn to play fair.  They need to know what it is like to not always be equal.  The schools system is very disappointing with the attitude of everyone should get the same results.   All kids learn differently and achieve differently.  I am seeing many kids coming out of high school and college, unsure of how to get a job, work in the world or deal with little mistakes in life.  They were never taught how to take care of themselves or that things are not always perfect.  

    Thanks for sharing your story, as a parent I need to look for many different ways to teach my kids life lessons, even though sometimes difficult and painful.

  • Sue

    Great post, Donovan.  Just as our kids need to realize it’s okay to fail, the same goes for us.   And, it’s good for them to see that failure for them or us is just a step towards success.    It took me way too many years to learn this!

  • Dovanan, great post. Just as kids can learn more about failure they can also learn that through failing you grow to hopefully not keep making the same mistakes over and over.  Everyone wants to win, but I look at winning sometimes as running a race: not everyone can reach the finish line at the same time, but they can cross the line at their own pace and still win their own prize saying “I did it.”

  • Michele, thank you for the feedback. It is always a pleasure to have you paying us a visit. I think that you summed it up so well “”Everyone” should be able to feel good about themselves…” Let’s keep telling the children the truth and let everyone go for their own PB!

  • Hey Elizabeth, thanks for stopping by. When you mentioned “kids to have times they win, lose and also learn to play fair.” It reminded me that in the UK we have win, lose and draw. I’ve always thought that draw is a soft option in any match. It’s healthy for the kids to taste both sides of a victory!

  • You got that right Sue, having the odd failure is an important step in the development of a child.

  • Thanks for that Carol. You make some great points and crossing the line at their own pace is really useful to help a child develop self-confidence.

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