Kids today get a lot handed to them, especially in activities. I fear we are teaching them that they can just show up and not have to work for a reward or acknowledgement...it will just happen for them. Effort, real hard work, teeth gritting effort is lacking and as a result I feel that our children are losing the true perspective around hard work and many are just going through the motions. I don't want to make the kids sad or unhappy...but I want them to learn to be proud of themselves and want to work hard for that reward...how to instill this at a young age is the trick.
I coach a running club at my kids' elementary school and we just finished up our season with a 5k race. On the last day of practice they run for their longest allotted amount of time. They have learned from the start of the season roughly how long it takes them to get around the track and what it feels like to push themselves. Some have finished and looked at us and said...I feel like I may throw up, others have started to cry because they have pushed themselves to the limit and did not make it to the line before time had run out. These are not things that we encourage but they happen nonetheless because kids are competitive and very competitive with themselves.
With running that is the one thing I was hoping they would learn. Yes you are running for time and there are a 40 other kids doing the same thing but at the end this is about you and your own improvement. It does not need to be about time or laps but that you told yourself that today you were going to not stop until you got around the track one time...or to the the football post. I wanted these kids to realize what they were capable of and see the changes that they could make to themselves with just a little bit of focus...and to be proud of that accomplishment!! I wanted them to set goals and crush them!
We have a runner in the group that is in fourth grade and this was not his first season. He has run with us before, he is quiet and strong and has a smiling face 99% of the time. On our last day of practice he asked how much time was left as he rounded the track and picked up his lap bracelet. He knew how many laps he could probably get in the time. He said to me that he was going to try for two...he would really have to push hard to get around...and sure enough he crossed the line before we finished out countdown.
That night his mom posted a picture of him on social media wearing his running medal around his neck. I commented that he should be really proud of himself and how hard he pushed himself despite the heat and pure exhaustion! This was her reply: "Thanks Julie. He told me he was so proud of himself for pushing at the end. I teared up because I'm not sure I've ever heard him say that he was proud of himself. Thanks for giving him this opportunity!"
Reading this again...just now...makes me tear up. We need to raise children that know what it means to work hard, play hard and then be rewarded. They need to want to try not for a medal or to pass a friend on the way to the finish line...seeing his beaming face of pride was better than any medal he wore around his neck. He knew what he had to do, he set a goal and he crushed it! I am so very proud of him and blown away that it clicked with him...and he was proud of himself! That made my season!
Pride can have a negative tone as well...overly boastful and showy...well if that is the case...I hope that he is as boasty as he can be! He earned it and nothing he should be quiet about. A ten year old set a goal, a hard physical goal...and he nailed it!! We go from one extreme to the next...were we show no effort and give rewards or we do an amazing job and are rewarded and told to be quiet about it. I say be proud of our hard work...things are not easy and when those goals are met you should shout from the rooftops....BE PROUD!
Embrace the suck...choose you....and be VERY PROUD!