All adults, including parents, coaches and teachers, are important role models for kids. It is by example that we teach them to celebrate victory and accept disappointment. They idealize and emulate us.
Much of the research shows that the influence of adult role models may even surpass that of siblings, peers, and celebrities in the lives of their children. What would we say if a professional team engaged in destructive behavior each time they lost?
From us, children learn there is no reason to hide evidence of a perceived failure. In fact, learning to accept failure gracefully is a key to future success. Honestly admitting to the failure is a sign of maturity. More importantly, we need to think about exactly what we want our children to think of as failure. Games that are fought hard and lost are just as honorable as games that are won. We all know that is an incredibly important life lesson because we can’t all win all the time.
Yes, it is our responsibility to motivate our kids. We just need to remember that whatever we do, they will copy it. Do we really want them to learn to set a less-than-perfect job review on fire? What will that get them later in life? Is this how we want them to manage all future disappointments?
Children are not as sophisticated as adults and cannot necessarily discern the difference between situations. They do not understand the difference between the playing field and the rest of life. If you did think it was acceptable to burn the trophies, take some time and explain to your child when this behavior may not be appropriate. As adults, our responsibility is to model behaviors that we think will serve our children well later in life.
-- Barbara R. Greenberg, Ph.D.
Silver Hill Hospital
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