I love the game of basketball, there’s something therapeutic about running up and down the court, battling for position, defending the lane from penetration, blocking a shot, earning a few fouls, throwing a couple elbows (did I say that?), hearing the sswwiisshhhh of the ball breezing through the net and working as a team to accomplish a goal. Love it! So, of course, when the boys were growing up, I encouraged them to play the game. (I think the only reason they played is because they knew how much I loved it). I have always taught the boys that winning isn’t everything. I firmly hold to the idea that what matters more is “how you play the game.”
Losing is a good thing. It keeps you grounded; it makes you work harder; it makes you think creatively, etc. Granted, losing forever can be depressing, but look at the greats: Michael Jordan was an amazing basketball player, yet what was his shooting percentage? It’s never mentioned how many baskets he missed. What about the baseball players who top the list in home-run hits… what’s their strike out rate? These men are remembered for their great accomplishments, yet they failed as much as they succeeded. There’s no shame in losing, missing a shot, striking out. We must try if we are ever going to hit that home run, or make that basket. We, as a society and especially as parents, focus too much on winning. So, imagine my shock and dismay when I was told that all players would receive a trophy at the end of the season. You’re kidding me, right?! What are we teaching our kids when we are constantly lying to them about the realities of life. Is there really anything wrong with a team that doesn’t earn first place, second, or even third, not receiving a trophy? Of course not, they haven’t earned it. We are deceiving ourselves by training our children that they will always receive something… for nothing.
That’s not the only example. What about the kids’ school environment? My boys, in middle school, would bring home book reports, all marked up with red pen, yet they’d get a B (sometimes an A). WHAT? When I was in school, I walked uphill 5 miles both ways. Just kidding… but I did spend hours writing and re-writing book reports because every single, piddly mistake was a mark off my grade. What happened to that? Do we really believe that by correcting mistakes on our children’s schoolwork we will forever damage their precious little egos? Give me a break! Rather than developing character in our kids, we’re creating demanding, self-centered, lazy children who will one day grow up into lazy, demanding, self-entitled adults. Scary!
As parents, it’s our job to teach our children right and wrong, it’s our job to teach them (prepare them for) the realities of life, and it’s not fair sometimes, and sometimes they will have to suffer the consequences of their actions. In my mind that includes a failing grade for poor school work (lazy school work), as well as watching and congratulating the winning teams (that receive trophies) while they themselves do not. What about the child who lies, cheats, steals? Quit saving them from the consequences of their actions. It might be painful, but it’s called… character development. We all want our children to be successful, to have character. We need to quit robbing them of opportunities to develop said character by allowing them to deal with life as it comes, even those things that are beyond our control.
God, our Father deals with us in much the same way. When temptations and persecutions come our way, how do we handle such things? God allows the trial of our faith, without rescuing us, because the trying of our faith produces character. James tells us to “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:3-4). I love this set of verses. We must allow patience (the enduring of temptations and persecutions or the suffering of consequences for our actions) to have its time with us. We need these things, for our own good, to “perfect” us, to build our character. We should “glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope…” (Romans 5:3-5).
Another verse that I think is misinterpreted sometimes is 1 Corinthians 10:13. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” I have always taken this verse to mean that we will literally escape our temptations… God will supply a way out. I don’t believe that is the proper interpretation. The word for escape implies much more. My Bible has a note that explains it this way: “In early Greek usage, this term had the sense of a landing place for a ship. The idea is thus, not that He will enable us to escape temptation, but that He will enable us to land intact on the other side.” This scripture has taken on a whole new meaning for me. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). I wonder if that is our escape, our way of coping till we make it to the other side, by putting our faith and trust in God, enduring by leaning on the outstretched arms of our Savior.
If God, in all his wisdom, allows us to grow and build character through those things that we face day after day, why do we, in all our wisdom, do just the opposite with our own children by solving their problems, covering up their mistakes, or excessively sheltering them from the realities of life? Don’t they deserve the chance to grow and learn how to place their dependence on God to help them through the disappointments, the troubles that will inevitably come their way? Maybe if we teach them from the beginning how to handle such things, as teenagers and young adults they won’t turn to alcohol, drugs, the open arms of a lover, depression, etc. I’m not saying we throw them to the wolves, I’m just saying life’s hardships are a reality. We need to allow them to see that we’re not perfect, when we have troubles we turn to God, when they have problems, they can do the same. Consequences are a wonderful tool in our parenting arsenal, it’s about time we pulled them out and allowed our children’s character a chance to grow (maybe ours could use an overhaul as well).
By Margot Mantle
Margot and her husband, Jason, worship with the Hazelwood Church of Christ in Hazelwood, MO. She has been a stay at home mom since her two boys were little (they’re teens now). She has a small interior decorating business and has just begun a website for ladies’ Bible study. She hopes to connect with other women through it.