Texas Parenting News
Should everyone get a trophy?
At children’s sporting events and other competitions, it’s not unusual to see every child—even those on the losing side—getting the same trophy or prize. What do you think of this practice?
It started in the 1970s in an era of concern about children’s self-esteem. The notion was that defeat would harm a child’s self-confidence.
Today psychologists have abandoned this notion. Imagine how the winners may feel: “We performed better but don’t get the credit.” And how about the losers? “We get a prize no matter if we try hard or not.”
The self-esteem movement began with the best intentions. Parents and educators wanted to help children to succeed in school and in life.
“The only problem is that these efforts simply do not work,” writes Steve Baskin in Psychology Today. “Self-esteem is not something conferred, it is earned through taking risks and developing skills.”
“We also spend too much time protecting our children from any pain or adversity,” he continues. “We hate to see them struggle, and we suffer when they suffer. But the same loving envelope that protects them from pain also protects them from growth.”
Certainly parents like to see their children come out on top. In some cases, this may reflect their own feelings of pride and accomplishment and their need to succeed through their children.
If the risk of losing causes parents too much discomfort, should they bar their children’s participation in sports and other competitive events?
Goals of competition
A little healthy competition can benefit children. Healthy competition focuses on the positive—what participants can learn and how they can improve. By contrast, unhealthy competition focuses on the negative—what participants do wrong or how to cheat and get away with it.
In healthy competition, children can learn to be a team player and work for the good of the group. They see that practice and effort count for more than talent. By interacting with other children, they develop social skills and empathy.
Ideally, we want children on both sides of a competitive experience to learn. The winners can review what they did well and figure out ways to win again. The losers can understand that defeat is part of living. Both sides can learn how to be good sports—to win and lose gracefully.
Put down that phone
Look around the grocery store, playground, or shopping mall where parents are with their children. Chances are some moms and dads are texting or reading messages on their cell phones and ignoring their children.
Yes, parents are increasingly busy these days—with work, household chores, school functions, sports, friends, relatives, church, and community activities. Cell phones have made it easier to communicate and manage tasks—but maybe at the expense of their children’s well-being.
According to medical and early childhood experts, children—especially babies and toddlers—need parental interaction to develop cognitive, social, and emotional skills. Research has shown, for example, that children who engage in the back and forth of conversation, even before they can talk, develop strong neural networks in the brain that boost their language and learning capability.
Children need attention to physical needs and cuddling to feel loved and secure. They need careful supervision to stay safe and gentle guidance to learn acceptable behavior. They need to feel respected and valued, to hear and tell family stories, and all the rest that make us human.
Taking an occasional phone call or checking for an important email won’t matter in the long run. Rather, it’s the constant use of cell phones—whether live streaming a movie or ball game, checking Instagram, texting with a friend, or even using the phone function—that robs children of your attention.
How to break the habit
Avoiding overuse of cell phones requires a deliberate decision. Developing a new habit of interacting with your children can start with small and easy steps:
Put your phone in the kitchen drawer at meal time and turn it off or silence it. Enjoy a technology-free dinner with your family. Having the phone out of sight and reach is important.
Once you succeed at this, do the same for bath time and bedtime.
Celebrate each small step. “Yay! I didn’t look at my cell phone the entire time I was changing his diaper.”
Distracted driving can lead to accidents and using a hand-held device is against the law in many places. Activate smartphone functions to keep yourself and your passengers safe.
Schedule a time for checking messages and email.
Unsubscribe from junk mail, and block unwanted callers.
When you’re with your children, notice how often you make eye contact, hug, listen, and laugh. Parenting has times of tedium as well as joy, so don’t feel guilty if you’re not doing it perfectly.
Take time for relaxation and fun with your children, even in 5- or 10-minute segments. Stop to enjoy the neighbor’s blooming roses, learn a new song, roll a ball back and forth, or read a story together. Children will grow up faster than you think, and you don’t want to miss these opportunities.
For more information
Christakis, Erika. (July/August). “The Dangers of Distracted Parenting,” The Atlantic, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/07/the-dangers-of-distracted-parenting/561752/.
Klass, Perri. (March 20, 2017). “The Guilty Secret of Distracted Parenting,” The New York Times, www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/well/family/the-guilty-secret-of-distracted-parenting.html.