My Kid Finally Sucks at Something, Yah!

I think we have gone a little too far with coddling our children in modern parenting, educating, and coaching. So when my 7 year old participated in his first gymnastics meet today and did not win a ribbon in 5 out of 7 categories, I was thrilled. I wanted to cheer “Yah! My kid finally sucks at something.”

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I thought it very appropriate that he did not walk away feeling like he was super awesome at this thing that he is quite frankly just average at.

In every other activity he has participated in in his short life so far, he has been awarded for no particular reason.  Not because he’s most improved, or because he showed great spirit, or because he was badass on the field scoring more points than anyone else. Nope, even if he missed like 8 out of 10 games he would earn a medal or a trophy. I mean we paid the league fees so every kid’s a winner, right?

It’s no better in the schools these days. Classes aren’t leveled based on cognitive abilities or intellectual skills. If they are, they are couched in cutesy little labels or colors which lack any connotation of the spectrum between under performance and superiority. I get my kid’s report card and I honestly can’t interpret it. Gone are the As, Bs, and Cs that would clearly indicate where you child lies on either side of average. How do they know to strive for improvement if they are never told they have some weaknesses?

Let’s face it. No one is perfect. But, up until today my kid has been led to believe in every organized activity or educational experience he has participated in that he is. Here’s your award, couldn’t be any better.

Argh! This is infuriating.

While I don’t want to demoralize an entire generation, we need some sort of balance. We should create encouraging environments at home, in the classroom, and on the playing field where we teach our children the value of self-reflection, where we let them embrace their unique strengths, assess their specific weaknesses, and accept that sometimes they are just average no matter how hard they try. When did average become a perjorative term in our society?

I for one don’t want my kid to grow up to be the 30 year old surgery resident who recently told her attending that she [the attending] was the first person to ever tell her [the resident] that she wasn’t good at something.

And that’s the key. If we teach our children the value of hard work, feeling pride in their diligence–even if they don’t get a gold star–should be reward enough. They will be great at continually striving even if they’re not always winning, even if modern day report cards no longer offer an ‘A for effort.’

So my kid was bummed he wasn’t called to the podium for each event. Sure his sad little face broke my heart just a little bit. But quite honestly, as a mom who wants to raise a well-balanced kid with his ego in check I was delighted that he seems to have chosen a sport where they do level players. Much more important that sticking that landing is the lesson learned that he’s not perfect. He won’t always win. He might even suck some times. And someday soon he will decide if it’s no longer fun to keep trying to be better than average at gymnastics.