4 Reasons You Can Be Happy Your Child Didn't Win
We all want to be winners. Have you ever met anyone that likes to lose? It seems only natural that we would want our children to win as well. Not only is it more fun for us as parents, but we love them more than life itself, of course we want them to be successful. I would like to make the point that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting your child to win and rooting for their success. In fact, that’s part of our job as their parent to be their biggest cheerleader, but there’s another side to parenting that isn’t quite as fun, but is vastly more important.
I have had the privilege of teaching dance for a living for the last 20 years. I also have the privilege of judging dance competitions all over the country and no matter where I go or who I teach, one thing is certain, people love to win. Winning is fun. No one is arguing that losing is preferable to winning, but I would like to make the argument that it’s not a bad thing, and even though it may be painful in the moment, it can actually be more beneficial than winning.
Here are a few reasons you can be thankful your child didn't win.
1. They Learn to Lose Gracefully
I had a parent a few years back that shared a story with me that I will never forget. Her daughter, about 8 years old, had a trio that had been doing well at regional dance competitions through out the year and at nationals they placed in the top three and had to re-compete for the first place trophy. They didn’t win, but her daughter smiled and cheered for the winner. When they got in the car to go back to the hotel, her daughter started to let out her emotions and the mom said to her, “Go ahead and be upset. It’s okay to be disappointed, but I want you to know that I’ve never been more proud of you than I was tonight when you stood there and smiled and cheered for the winners even though I knew you were sad you lost.” That moment of learning to be gracious and humble was more valuable than any trophy.
2. They Gain Perspective
When a child doesn’t get the results he or she wants, it’s an opportunity to gain perspective. Maybe that perspective is that they aren’t as good as they thought and that can be a motivation or a discouragement depending on how we, as their parents, package it. One thing that I can tell you is that you aren’t doing your child any favors by telling them that they deserved to win and the judges got it wrong. Whether that's true or not, that won’t help them. It just leads to entitlement and laziness. There is always room for improvement and there will always be people better than them and that is ok. Losing also allows them to gain perspective on what can be done differently. Maybe it’s that they need to be more consistent. Maybe they need to work harder. Maybe they need to not put so much pressure on themselves. Maybe they need to prioritize differently to reach their goals. Maybe they need to just be patient, which leads me to the third.
3. They Learn Patience
I often remind kids that dance is not a fast food drive thru, it’s more like a slow cooker. It takes awhile to see the results of your hard work. We live in such an instant gratification world and it’s important to take every opportunity to teach our kids that not everything is instant and that there is value in consistently working hard and being patient to see the results. It’s important not to get discouraged when they don’t instantly get the results they want, but to keep pushing and working because it will pay off in more ways than just winning. Learning the value of doing little things consistently and being patient to see results is something that filters into whatever they choose to do later in life.
4. They Find Motivation
There’s a saying that if you are the best in the room, you are in the wrong room. If your child is always winning, are they in the right room? When did you feel the most motivated and driven? Was it when everything was going right and you felt on top of your game or was it when you knew that you had to dig deep and step it up if you wanted to reach your goals? People tend to rise to the bar that is set for them. There's no shame in being beaten by someone better than you. Let it inspire and motivate you. The most successful people have a habit of surrounding themselves with people that push them and challenge them. It’s easy to become complacent when we are always winning and it’s no different for our children.
When I was a freshman in high school I competed for Dancer of the Year and got last place. I remember getting the results in the mail. (yes…in the mail. I’m that old.) I knew I didn’t win, but I never dreamt that I was LAST! My mom watched me open the envelope and saw my face drop. My eyes welled with tears as I told her that I was actually last place. I was so embarrassed. She didn’t skip a beat and said, “Well, that’s disappointing, I guess you’ve got some work to do. That just means it will be even more shocking to everyone when you go from last to first.” My mom gave me perspective, motivation and encouragement. She didn’t say, “WHAT?! That’s crazy! They don’t know what they’re talking about!” She didn’t encourage me to try volleyball. She made it clear to me that this was just part of the process. That if I wanted it bad enough I could have it, but I had to do the work and I couldn’t dwell on the failures. I had to let them be my motivation. To this day, I’m not sure if my mom actually believed that I could go from last to first in two years or if she was just trying to be encouraging and supportive, but that was a pivotal moment for me because I realized that failure was not the end, it was a necessary part of the process. Two years later, I did as my mother had predicted and won that award and it meant even more to me because of the failures that I had along the way.
It’s natural for us, as parents, to want the best for our kids. We don’t want them to feel pain. We don’t want them to be disappointed. We don’t want them to fail, but our greatest successes in life often come after pain, disappointment and failure. It’s our job, not only to cheer them on when they win, but to see the opportunity and blessing in the times when they don’t. The truth is that our kids are going to fail ten times for every time they succeed and every time they do is an opportunity for growth, but they need our guidance and encouragement. They need us to give them perspective and to show them that life is more than winning and losing. So take a deep breath and remember the bigger picture. Give them a hug. Tell them that you know that they feel disappointed and that they have every right to feel that way and then take advantage of that opportunity to help them be better, stronger and more equipped to handle life and the disappointments that inevitably come with it.