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Children will always be winners if they can lose with dignity, grace

Teaching Your Child

Teaching Your Child

July 11, 2008|By LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

It's interesting to watch children participating in summer programs.

There's definitely a different group dynamic than is present in most classrooms.

For one thing, many summer programs only last a week. The children often don't know each other or the instructor well. The instructor might not have classroom experience.

Yet organized summer programs for children are good for several reasons. They give children something productive to do. No parent wants to hear a child talk about how bored he or she is.

Summer programs also can expose children to experiences that they wouldn't have the time or the occasion for throughout the school year.

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Plus, many programs offer opportunities to fine-tune social, teamwork and problem-solving skills.

Since school left out, I've had several conversations with my 9-year-old about making the right choices when playing or working with others.

She's had some opportunities to apply my suggestions.

In an athletic event of a recent program, she finished a race in the top two of her age group. In the run-off, my daughter lost. She didn't seem upset about losing because she said it was a good, challenging race. I commended her for having the right attitude.

There was something that bothered her about the experience, though.

"Mommy, the other girl said something to me after the race that wasn't very nice."

I asked her what the other girl said.

"She said, 'In your face, you loser!' "

Oh, dear. I was bracing myself for what my daughter did next. Did she react and say something unkind back? I asked what she said in response.

"I didn't say anything. One of the grown-ups told her, 'That's not what you're supposed to say after a race. You're supposed to shake hands and tell the other person it was a good race.' "

Then my daughter and I talked about why the other girl used those words. Perhaps her parents hadn't taught her how to be a good sport and to simply enjoy the experience of participating.

We talked about word choice and intended messages.

Sometimes people say one thing but the message they are trying to convey is quite different from the words they use. It's important to read body language, tone and facial expressions to determine a person's true intent.

Many times the recipient of unkind words is merely the most convenient target.

This girl probably wanted to look tough and cool and wanted to attract attention to herself, so she wanted to make the person who came in second place look bad.

My daughter agreed with that assessment and said she was more irritated by the other girl's lack of social skills than she was hurt by what was said.

She said she wouldn't want those words to be said to anyone else because another person might really feel bad to be called a loser.

I agreed and explained that when people try to attract attention to themselves by making others look small, the opposite often occurs.

Then I gave her two pieces of advice:

1. The harder you try to draw attention to yourself, the less likely you are to be noticed for the right reasons.

2. Concentrate on doing what you know is right and all the other things will fall into place.

If she even scratches the surface of either one of those concepts, it will have been a productive summer.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com

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