Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Don't Add to The Bumper Bowling Generation

For years bowling alleys have utilized a system to help youngsters still have fun when they try to bowl. They put these foam cushions or bumpers in each gutter so no matter where the child rolls the ball it will at least go down the alley and hit a few pins and not end up in the channel.

And for those purposes it was and is a great idea. Most of those kids would never hit any pins the whole time if it weren't for the bumpers.

Unfortunately, our society seems to want kids to live all of life that way, with bumpers everywhere so they always succeed, never really lose and avoid most of life's disappointments. All the kids get trophies, ribbons and "good job" comments no matter how they perform.  In many ways we've almost removed disappointment, hard work and healthy competition from everyday life for kids, something that simply isn't true in the real world.

So should we go to the other extreme and just make every activity, sport and class tough, raw and ultimately may the best kid win?  Probably not. But there is a place for balance and letting our children experience life more the way it truly is and will be when they are older.

The benefits are important.  For example, kids need to learn to lose. They will not always be first, number one or get a trophy. Sometimes you give your best and someone else is better. That's OK and normal is the lesson we can teach here. We can show them how to lose graciously and as a good sport in the process. But what's the value in going over and shaking hands or telling the other team they did great when nobody won and it's pretty easy to do and say?

Second, losing can help increase their motivation to do better. Who wants to try harder when the result next week will be the same?  "I will get a prize whether I work hard or not. Everyone will think I'm wonderful even if I don't care and don't try."  And so they look for another "bumper" from mom and dad or the coaches to just make them feel good again for trying.

Third, facing hardships grows our inner strength.  In the Bible, God rarely took people around problems.  Instead he made them, including Jesus, go through them,. God knows that we learn to trust Him more not our abilities when we struggle, face problems and have to overcome obstacles.  Let's face it many of us face more struggle than victories in life anyway.  Now's the time to prepare them to still have joy and peace in the middle of our challenges.

So yes, we need to encourage our children and not make expectations so high they become exasperated as the Bible points out. But we also need to let them fail, make a mistake and not be the winner every time. And if we do, they will "win" in the biggest challenge of all, being the person of character and integrity God wanted them to be all along.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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