My recent post 'Earning Your Life Skills Certificate' touched briefly on the topic of children and rewards.
My eldest attended her first *away* swim meet this weekend. Her experience turned my thoughts back to the topic.
Several of the youngsters representing her club were also *first-timers*. By lunchtime, some of them had gained medals for their efforts. Others - my own daughter included - had not. Cue a few disappointed faces.
As with many sports, swimming has its own set of rules and etiquette. Over lunch, one of the coaches confessed to me that he knew the kids thought he was being hard on them.
For my own part, I was delighted with his approach - and with my daughter's experience.
1. In swimming, it's easy to get disqualified. That's tough to deal with when you're very young. But enforcing the rules from the start means that errors and bad habits get ironed out at an early stage. Judges feed back to coaches, who work with their charges to correct the mistakes. The process is handled sensitively and constructively.
2. There may not be medals for all but progress is acknowledged. Race times were made available throughout the day. And there were high fives and fist bumps for those who had achieved personal bests (PBs) too.
3. Representing a club brings responsibility but also camaraderie. Forget the podium. My *proud mum* moment came when I watched my normallly self-conscious daughter stand on the bench and yell her lungs out for her new friends during the relays. She was delighted to be part of it by association.
4. Win or lose, you stick it out until the medals ceremony at the end. You grit your teeth, you smile and you applaud others whether they're on your team or not. Dealing with disappointment (of which more here) is something that we all have to do in life. Shielding our children does them a disservice; it leaves them ill-equipped for adulthood. Losing graciously is a skill that needs to be worked at.
Medals are great. Particularly when they're attained through perseverance and training. When everyone gets one, they don't feel quite as special. Some of the unsuccessful newcomers may decide that competitive meets simply aren't their thing. Others may be inspired and desperate to give it another shot. Their reactions will vary as much as their personalities.
For my own children, I hope that their involvement in sport encourages them to remain active and healthy in adulthood. I hope that being part of a club helps them understand how to contribute to a team. I hope that meeting other youngsters in different settings develops their confidence, communication skills and social circles.
And if they achieve all that? Well, that's what I call a victory.