Friday, June 19, 2009

Training Good Losers

“Then you will understand what is right and just and fair--every good path.” - Proverbs 2:9

Last week, my kids started summer sports. My oldest plays baseball, while my six-year-old loves soccer.

On the day of her first baseball practice, my daughter had a friend over to play. They decided to entertain themselves with a card game. All was going well as they enjoyed a spirited competition, but then I said, “You can each play one more hand and then we need to get ready to leave for baseball practice.”

As it turned out, playing one more hand left my daughter the loser of the game. Had they played two more hands, she could have won. Her loss prompted an uncharacteristic outburst directed towards me. “If we could have played longer, I could have won. Thanks a lot!”

Teaching our kids to be good sports can be tough. Many kids can master the art of gracious winning, but helping them learn to have good attitudes in the face of defeat can take some work. Remind them of how it feels to win when playing with someone who loses well, and how it feels to compete against a poor loser. Then let them know that getting to play includes doing a good job of finishing the game, regardless of the results. Some kids will need a later reminder by having you say, “I’m sorry honey, but you don’t get to play cards this time because I need to help you learn to handle yourself better when you don’t win. As soon as you’ve shown me that you can play nicely whether you win or not, you can play again.” Most moms only have this conversation once before they start seeing better attitudes from their kids. Also, make sure that when you play games with your child, sometimes let him win and other times let him lose. This lets him practice responding to both situations, and gives you an opportunity to coach him if he has trouble or praise him when he handles the situation well.

By the time baseball practice started, my daughter’s competitive spirit was back on track. As we walked toward the car when she was done, she commented, “Did you see that boy who wasn’t playing like a good sport?” I love those life lessons that come full circle in only an hour.

How do you help your child learn to be gracious in defeat?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Smiling In The Rain

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." - James 1:2-3

There are a lot of things I love about my husband, but one characteristic I especially appreciate is his positive outlook. His ability to turn virtually any situation into a positive experience triumphed this past week while we were on vacation.

Thinking that a week of hiking would be a great way to kick off summer vacation, we headed to the mountains for one of our favorite family hobbies. The first couple of days were wonderful. We basked in beautiful weather and enjoyed the bright sunshine and clear skies. However, on the third day, the rain started and did not end.

Thankfully, my husband and I believe that a good time can be found anywhere and in any situation. Not to be deterred by the rain, we watched movies and read books, like everyone does when it is wet outside. However, we also went sightseeing, explored mountain towns, and had fun walking in the rain. My husband said, “We’re not going to let the rain slow us down.” And we didn’t.

The kids had a great time too. They never complained about being wet (which they clearly were) or cold (which I assume they were because I was) or walking on sidewalks and paved trails rather than our customary dirt paths. They went along with our altered plans, smiling all the way.

I truly believe that the attitudes of parents become those of the children. Adults who are positive and find silver linings amidst the storm clouds tend to have kids with great outlooks. I even think that parents can influence some change in a child’s natural attitude wiring. We often tease my youngest daughter by calling her Eeyore. She and the lovable donkey from Winnie The Pooh share a flare for the negative. However, as my daughter gets older, I notice a positive view of life trumping the negative more and more.

What is your general outlook, Mom? Do you notice your kids being more positive when you point out the blessings of life? Do you hear more complaining from your little ones on days when the world weighs heavily on your shoulders? How do you notice your attitude influencing your children?