Disappointment, Competition, And Community. The Value In Learning About All Three.

Being an author, artist, athlete, or any other professional in which one is forced to compete is not an easy thing. As an author, I continue to have to deal with rejection and disappointment.  And sometimes, as a part of business, I must reject and disappoint others.

Writing books and finding an illustrator for my children’s book about my life with Cerebral Palsy has turned out to be much more difficult than I thought.  I hope to be able to contractually secure an illustrator for my children’s book this summer and still have it published in the fall, but nothing is guaranteed.  I may be disappointed again and/or have to disappoint someone else if the samples of illustrations don’t fit my vision of my children’s book.

Since this is a children’s book about me, it’s an absolute requirement that the cartoon character depicting me both as a child and adult is accurate.  I want young children to see what severe cerebral palsy looks like while showing them how much one can accomplish despite the disability.  I also want other children with cerebral palsy to be able to relate to the book.

Processed with MOLDIV

All of this got me thinking about disappointment, competition, and community.  I am 36 years old and I still don’t handle disappointment as well as I would like, yet we expect young children to deal with it better than we do. When they have a meltdown due to disappointment, we punish them instead of helping them learn to cope with disappointment.

And, at times, we even set the children up for disappointment by expecting them to do things that they are not ready to do like compete at a young age or go to a candy store without getting any candy when we know they can’t control their impulses.

Children are put in sports or other competitions and are expected to compete.  Even going to school has become a competition to see who can get the best grades and who can be the most popular.

While there’s a movement to give everyone trophies in competitions, I’m not sure if that’s the answer either.  I absolutely hate the way many conservatives talk about this; that giving everyone a trophy is turning them into “snowflakes (too sensitive).”  Yet, this culture and life requires hard work and earning things through hard work and talent.

Plus, children should be able to enjoy the journey towards their goals and accomplishments.  It is often the journey—whether or not it results in success or failure—that teaches us all important lessons.  We should not take this away from children by making everyone a “winner” or trying to shield them from all rejection and disappointment.

I love this meme from Calm:

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I believe that learning to work hard and how to cope with disappointment is very important for children. I also think for young children, there’s nothing wrong with getting a certificate of participation for participating in an event.  Teaching children that while everyone may not be able to be the best and win, it’s still important to be inclusive.

Then there’s community. Community is very important to teach children.  Having a communal attitude can go along way in helping this society to be more united. Children must be taught that, in basic human terms, everyone is equal no matter what!  Celebrating individual talents is fine but that doesn’t mean anyone’s “better” than the other when it comes to simply being a human being.

In many other countries, the culture is alll about community and putting others first. Children learn this from a young age and have been known to run together to reach a prize and then share it.  The children don’t believe that one can be happy if the whole group isn’t happy.  This is another great argument that children are not born sinful!  They act how they live. We are their teachers.

I recently attended an event with my husband and friend which was very community oriented. Everyone was happy, loving, and peaceful. It was very refreshing that there was no judgment or anything negative. We did play a game but it was all in fun and we were happy for the people who won.

I guess there’s a time for disappointment, competition, and community. However, we must teach children how to cope with disappointment and not push competition on them. Playing should be fun while teaching children about teamwork which is community. Disappointment is a part of life. We must teach them how to deal with their big feelings in a kind, compassionate way.

I must also point out that the Church is failing in community because the Church tends to pick and choose who they allow to be a part of the Church. The Church has been known to reject, be oppressive, and even abuse weaker groups of people of all ages.  Yet, Jesus calls us to love, help, and include everyone in the community.

But most of all, may we teach children community and inclusion. That looking out for everyone is what truly matters.  Working hard together and understanding that everyone has different talents is more important than anything else.

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Does 60 Seconds Of Pain Help Prevent 60 Years Of Disappointment?

I recently heard a sermon about children that didn’t sit well with me.  I held my breath through it waiting for the pastor to get to “discipline” a.k.a punishment in most Christian circles.

While he didn’t come right out and talk about spanking/hitting children, his words and phrases implied spanking such as:

”This is gonna hurt me more than you.”

“When a football player gets a penalty, they get it and then move on to the next play.”

“Sixty seconds of pain helps prevent sixty years of disappointment.”

And he cited James Dobson a couple times in his sermon which anyone familiar with Dobson knows that he advocates spankings and other harsh punishment for children.

It’s sad that he even mentioned the children in the sanctuary looking like, “oh no, not discipline” as true discipline should not make children squirm in their seats.  As I have pointed out a great deal throughout my book and this blog, yes, discipline can be painful as children learn how their actions affected another person or when they don’t get something that they really wanted.  But discipline never inflicts pain on a child!

So, does 60 seconds of pain really help prevent 60 years of disappointment?

In my experience, no, it does not. Yeah, I was abused, but even people who were spanked/hit “lovingly” experience disappointment throughout their lives. Why?  Because disappointment is a part of life.

If anything, being spanked and punished makes it harder to deal with disappointment because it doesn’t teach us how to handle it in a healthy manner.  For example, spanking/hitting a toddler for either not accepting a limit or getting very upset about it doesn’t teach them how to handle disappointment. It just makes them more upset and confused. They either lash out more, which will end in more spanking/hitting and/or other punishment or it teaches the toddler that his/her feelings don’t matter.  This can lead them to lash out as adults or repress their feelings as adults when disappointment comes their way. It can lead to real problems in their lives.

The pastor used an example for this “sixty seconds of pain” concept of a child that was permissively parented and ended up in prison. Yes, permissive parenting also sets up children to not be able to handle life’s disappointments in an unhealthy way.  If they always get what they want in childhood, then they will probably get very angry as adults when things don’t go how they want.

The problem is that trying to imply that if you don’t spank/hit children they will become criminals is very erroneous.  The fact is that the majority of prisoners were physically punished as children!  Violent parenting makes children feel powerless.  This can lead some to use aggression as adults to get what they want as that is what their parents did to them.

The rest of the prison population is usually permissively parented.

Pain makes us angry, sad, confused, and anxious.  Why would you set up children to experience pain from you in order to “prevent” sixty years of disappointment?  It makes no sense.

Disappointments happen from birth and its our job to get on their level and say, “I’m so sorry you are sad, frustrated, and disappointed.  This is the way it has to be but I am here to help you.”  Teach them healthy ways of expressing their disappointments by giving them words, encouraging art expression, using music, petting an animal, reading a book–anything productive that truly helps them.

The number one thing we can do to prepare children for disappointment is to show them that we are there for them and will listen to them. Teach them that they can always count on us and God.  Because sixty seconds of pain will never prevent sixty years of disappointment.

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