Tired of being walked too many times in Little League, my son decided that he was going to swing the bat.
He learned very quickly that swinging…although it can result in getting a hit…can also result in getting an out. And that…he didn’t like so much.
I watched him make a great hit only for it to get caught…out. Then, the next time he was up to bat, he got another great hit only to get caught again…out.
I wish I could tell you that he took it well, but he didn’t. Every time he got an out, he came out of the dugout, with his hat over his eyes, and sobbed in my arms. “I wish I didn’t even swing the bat!” he grumbled.
I am more of a “get over it kid” kind of mom, but this time, I just hugged him and let him cry and be upset. In his world, I knew this was important and I just needed to be there for him…not lecture him like I wanted to.
Then, after the game (the slaughter) was over and it was time for his team to walk through the line of high fives with the other team, I watched as my son refused to give them high fives. I was mortified as we have always taught him to be a good sport and no matter what–whether you win or lose–you always, always, always shake the other team’s hands and say “good game.” And HE DIDN’T DO IT!
Well, let me tell you, I wanted to run out there and drag him over to the other team and make him shake their hands..no, hug them all and embarrass the crap out of him, but I didn’t. Maybe I should have.
I wish I could tell you that I wasn’t angry at him, but I can’t. I was angry. I was disappointed and I felt like I hadn’t done my job as a parent. I felt like somehow I had failed. But then I realized…yes, I have worked with him on losing…yes, I have worked with him on being a good sport…but I just simply needed to review. More teaching…more training…more praying. That’s all. It wasn’t failure on either of our parts.
At bedtime that night, we reviewed my son’s value beyond the hits, catches, pitches…beyond the strikes, balls, errors, and outs. We reassured him that what mattered more than any of those things was what was in his heart. God lives in his heart and makes him special and loves him no matter what…and so did we! We also informed him that he would be writing an apology letter to the other team as well as to his own team for showing poor sportsmanship. And we added “Failing Well” for our next family meeting’s agenda.
Teaching our kids to fail well is tough, but it’s also our job. Training our kids to accept defeat, make mistakes, and move on should start early and never stop. No matter how old they are, our kids are always needing introductory courses as well as refresher courses on everything–and I mean everything! In fact, we just had to have a Hand-Washing Seminar review at our last family meeting. 🙂 So failure needs to be our focus once again.
Because in life, it’s not a matter of “will our kids fail” but “when will our kids fail.” And we want them to grow in confidence in who they are and in who God created them to be so they will continue to not only step up to the plate, but also swing the bat.
Here are some practical ways to teach kids to fail well…
- playing board games or kick ball as a family so they have opportunities to win and lose.
- having them color outside the lines.
- building blocks together and knocking them over.
- celebrating when they at least try.
- encouraging them to try something new.
- Building something together and then making improvements on it.
- laughing together over silly mistakes.
- watching our own anger level when mistakes are made–remember to teach more and yell less.
- asking “What did you learn from this?”
- saying “Uh oh. Let’s try again.”
- saying “I’m so proud of you for trying.”
- Asking “What can you do differently next time?”
Lord, you are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15). Fill us with compassion and mercy when our kids make mistakes. Help us to be slow to anger and quick to teach and love. And even when they may fail, remind us that Your love and faithfulness never does.
Here’s to building better families together-