Creating Mediocrity: Every Kid is NOT a Winner!

One day, not long ago, while my daughter (who is 7) and I were bowling, a guy in the lane next to us said “You ought to let her win a game!” I replied “It ain’t happening today, or ever; when she does beat me, it will be because she won fair and square, and  she will know that she did so on her own ability, and not because someone let her!” He acted as if I was speaking Japanese.

I cringe every time I see some contest where every child who entered gets a blue ribbon, and is told “You are all winners!”  As well intentioned as the purveyors of this philosophy may be, it does little to prepare a child to mature in a healthy and useful manner, or to deal with the world as it really works. In life, there ARE winners; one per “event”, and the rest, are, well…losers. I’m sure Tiger Woods father didn’t say “Tiger, yes you got 4th place…but that’s okay little Tiger Cub, you are still a WINNER!” No, he likely said “You are a good boy, AND you lost big time, really got your butt whipped, and have a whole lot of work to do; get your clubs and let’s go hit 200 balls!

How rampant is this backbone of Jello “Everyone is a winner” attitude? It saddens me to tell you. Children in Canada are being taught that winning is bad. The Gloucester Dragons soccer league has a new rule; if a team in this league wins by more than 5 points, they lose. I kid you not. Supposedly, this rule is to promote “fairness”! Perhaps, just as the mother Wildebeest that has just watched a Lion viciously rip the throat out of two of her offspring, you, too, have realized that life is NOT fair. Nor is it supposed to be.

One central message I send to my daughter is that life is not fair, and that she should have not have expectations of such. Would I let my daughter play on this soccer team…not a chance.

Love your child, let them know that nothing they can do will make you love them one bit more, and nothing they can do will make you love them one bit less. I don’t need to let my daughter win in the games we play. Because she knows I love her unconditionally, her worth is not tied up in whether she wins or losses. Now, I will tell you, she absolutely hates to lose; not because she feels empty without it, but because she knows the whole point of playing in the first place, is to win. I hate losing too.

To those who would argue “It’s just a game!” I say this: The next time you watch any type of game or competition, consider how many people would care to watch, or play, for that matter, if they chose not to keep score. It would all be rather pointless.

In short, the “everyone is a winner” concept promotes mediocrity and an attitude of “why give my best? I’ll get a ‘ribbon’ anyway…after all; we are all winners…even when our performance sucks!” My most frequent phrase when my daughter needs accurate feedback is “That really sucked, and, I love you!” It is a reminder that no matter the performance, the love is constant. Then, I will explain, how, exactly, it “sucked”, and then provide feedback on how she might improve or do better next time around.

I was fortunate enough to spend a couple months at the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, Ca, and have a handful of friends that spent time with the S.E.A.L. teams. This is one place where you can get familiar with what the mindset of a winner is, really quick like. These guys play to win; they know there are losers in life, and that in their line of work, the loser winds up riddled full of holes. As they say in the teams, “It pays to be a winner!”

 What you will find, however, is that these guys don’t just apply it to warfare…that would be dangerous; they play to win wherever they go, and whatever they are doing. Trust that if they were playing checkers against your 90 year old Grandmother, who was using her Social Security to wager a bet, that you’d better be prepared to help Granny out with groceries next month, cause she’s not going to win.

How did we get here? Why is it that we’ve somehow slipped into an abyss where everyone is supposed to be equal in every imaginable way? I really don’t have a clue. What I do know, however, and see signs of everywhere, is how it is stripping the work ethic and mental toughness out of our young people, coast to coast.

Fact is, people will get the “job” because they are more beautiful, handsome, taller, or from a certain family. Fair? Of course not, but then again, life is not supposed to be; this is how things have worked for centuries-or longer- and how they will work for many more. For those that understand this, they can prepare to work with the world as it is. For those who grow up thinking that “everyone is a winner”, they’ll be saddened-perhaps even clinically depressed, when the gorgeous blonde goofball, or tall dark and handsome idiot, gets the job, even when they weren’t really qualified to have it.

Has my daughter ever beat me in a game? Damn right…and I hate it; however, when she has done so, she feels empowered, because she knows she did it on her own, and has it re-confirmed that she does in fact, have the ability.

As the years pass, I’m sure she’ll beat me more and more, until one day, I’ll be old and feeble, and easily “whipped” as my mind and body start to fail. And when that time comes, if I ever sense that she’s “letting” me win at something, because I’m old, she should expect a swift “tap” of my cane on her shins, as a little reminder, that letting people win can be “painful” for all involved.

© Copyright 2010-Vincent Harris-All Rights Reserved.

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