Before this post goes on any further, I should probably make a full disclaimer: I am competitive. In fact, it’s not just me…it’s my entire family. I mean, my wife and I can’t even leave a location in different cars headed home without it being a race to the front door. For better or worse, it’s just who we are.
It’s a pretty popular discussion these days among those in sport circles. In fact, James Harrison of the Pittsburg Steelers had (in my personal opinion) an amusing rant on social media a few years ago when he came home and found out his kids has received a trophy for simply showing up. That wasn’t flying in the Harrison house, and by God’s grace it won’t fly in the Gaston house either.
Rewind. In 1969, Nathaniel Branden published a work that would change patterns of thinking for decades to come. His writing “The Psychology of Self-Esteem” argued that how one feels about themselves is foundational to success. This mindset has now become the very bedrock that many of us parent our children out of today.
Fast forward. Your child plays in a game. They get absolutely crushed. By crushed I mean that the game was probably over in the 1st quarter (or 1st inning.) In the team huddle afterwards, the coach is at a loss for words. They’ve worked hard, they’ve put in the effort in practice and now the parents anxiously await what coach will say to the athletes. Coach tells them they basically stunk it up today on the field. They prepared all week but didn’t execute, and that’s why they lost. Parent A doesn’t resonate well with that. On the way back to the car, he/she says “Don’t worry about what coach said. You’re a winner.”
If you think the above conversation is a bit of a stretch, you’re out of touch with reality (or maybe you just haven’t been to a youth sports game lately) or served in a Student Ministry.
Here’s the problem: We’re handing our participation trophies in life to our kids. Those kids are growing up being over evaluated by their parents (you’re a snowflake, you can do it all, you’re a winner) and then head into the real world that is inundated with failure, and they don’t know how to respond. As Christian parents, we must do better.
Here are a few things I think we can do now:
- Let them know that showing up is NOT 90% of success: Let’s stop the madness please. If my son showed up to school with no backpack, no folder, no pencil, that’s not a successful day. That’s a waste. Let’s stop rewarding people for simply showing up. There’s more to it than that. (Side note: Parents, it might be a good idea to press your students a bit after worship and small groups on the weekend. Ask good questions about what they’re learning, how it’s transforming their heart, etc.. Just because they show up doesn’t mean they’re growing.)
- Be Honest with Your Kids: If they can’t sing, don’t let them tryout for the worship team. The last thing most of our churches need are people who can’t sing leading us on the weekends. Be honest with them. Help them see other gifts or better yet, lay out a path for them.
- Example: Okay bud, you want to sing? Here’s the deal. Right now, you’re not very good, which is why you didn’t make the band. And that’s okay! But, if you really want to do this, you’re going to have to take some lessons. Even after that, it might not be exactly where you hoped. But I’m willing to support you if that’s the direction you want to go.
- Help them learn from failure: One of the greatest life lessons is being able to get up after falling. Proverbs 24:16 “Though the righteous fall seven times,they rise again.” Their lives are going to be full of moments of failure. Help them grow through failure rather than try to go around it. Let them fail, and then pick them back up! Our kids can lose like champions. Let’s help them do that, and then pick them back up and push them towards kingdom things.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
The Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27