Today was the end of year Field Day at my daughters' school. It was a chilly, blustery day of games and activities. They came home with painted faces, grass stains, and lots of stories.
I can remember Field Day at the same school as a child. During the morning the whole school would fill the bleachers at the neighboring high school and watch different races on the track. There were contests between the classes in each grade. We would sign up for the events we wanted to participate in and then cheer wildly for our friends. There was pride for the kids in the event and pride as a class.
At some point between the Field Day that I remember and the time my daughters entered school, our world decided that competition should slowly be eliminated from young children's activities. Today there was an obstacle course, but it wasn't a race, just one at a time through the course. When they play kickball at school, they don't keep score. The school has decided that everyone needs to be a winner at all times. It's not just at school either, trophies abound from every youth event.
Competition isn't the worst situation for our children. Contrary to popular belief, losing alone won't break our fragile children's self esteem into a million irreplaceable pieces. Our children are never taught how to lose. They don't understand that they're not perfect and won't win every game. When they do lose they feel like a failure, like they've disappointed everyone. If we never allow our children to experience loss, failure, and disappointment how will they function as independent adults? Will they be the twenty-somethings who have their mothers call their boss?
If it was acceptable for our children to lose a game, would the stands at a high school games be different. Would we as parents be able to truly appreciate the efforts of all of the children on the field or court? Remember, they are still children!
I want my kids to be losers during their childhood when we're still here to help guide them and support them. I want them to understand that they won't win everything. There will be other kids who are better than them. I don't expect them to be perfect but I do expect them to try. There is value in losing and there is value in trying things even when they're hard.