My aunt Jane just sent me this interesting op-ed from The Times and I must say I found it quite timely. Recently, I became aware of some of the phenomena discussed in the editorial. For example, a friend of mine told me that on her 3-year old son’s t-ball team, it is not possible to be “out.” She was describing how her son would gleefully hit the ball and meander over to first base. She said she would yell, “Run,” but her son would just look at her kinda quizzically, as if to say, “Why?” It’s not that he’s lazy – far from it; in fact, she said he’s the first to run after every ball hit. It’s just that he doesn’t understand the point of sprinting to first base. In his mind, quite understandably, all a person does is hit the ball and then move onto the base. In addition to finding the image adorable, I thought, “That’s so weird.” I didn’t have the studies cited in the article to back up my scientific conclusion that the t-ball rules were “weird,” and I didn’t really think about it in terms of harm to the child in the way the article describes.* Instead I thought, “Why on earth would it be bad to tell a kid he’s “out”? It almost seems as though the adults are implicitly suggesting that failure is a character flaw instead of what it really is: a necessary part of life. And certainly a necessary part of baseball. I mean, really. Those games are long enough.
I’m sure it won’t be fun to watch Molly fail (though if the present is any indication: I’m callous. I’m still laughing about her running smack into the clear glass door at the library), but it’s not something I’m very scared of. Of course she will fail! If she doesn’t, how will she ever succeed? It makes so much sense to me that the kids who are uber-praised will stop trying once they have that first failure. If you haven’t learned how to deal with failure early and often, it must be terrifying to experience it after only lots of “success.” Good grief! It’s like just setting kids up to fail by not letting them fall. Oy. Let’s please try not to do that, ok?
Not to mention that I have no interest in storing a boatload of crappy participation trophies in my house.
*And let me be clear: I don’t think there is any harm being done to this particular charming three-year old. I know he’s already been given – and will continue to be given – plenty of opportunities to fail and succeed in his life.