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Parenting Perspectives – Helping Kids Handle Defeat

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Parenting can be rip-your-heart-out painful!

Our son has had a tough year. Went out for football. Never had a pass thrown to him all season. Got very little playing time.  Couldn’t wait to try out for basketball – his favorite sport. Didn’t make the “A” team  . . . or the “B” team. Crushing! After being involved in student council all through elementary school, he was elected as a stuco representative in 7th grade. Just ran for Student Council President. Defeated. Has struggled internally for about a week. Big blow. 

It’s so important to support our kids and encourage them to achieve their dreams, but when their dreams don’t come true what do we do?

1) Take their pain seriously. Don’t trivialize it. It’s very real to them. Acknowledge their feelings and show mercy.

2) Be a safe place for them to share their feelings when they’re ready, but don’t push too hard or force them to open up to you.

3) Sometimes kids don’t know what to do with their pain so it manifests itself as anger. Be patient. Gently, but firmly, let them know it isn’t okay to disrespect you. Teach them how to handle their emotions.

4) Naturally, they will wrestle with feelings of inadequacy and diminished self-worth. Don’t let your feelings affect how you treat them. You aren’t the one who tried out. You aren’t the one who was defeated. They are. Don’t criticize or condemn them. LOVE and AFFIRM them with all you have in you – without “babying” them.

5) Your job is to prepare your children to face the realities of life – and life will hold many disappointments. Teach them how to handle challenges in a healthy manner. Attacking the one who rejected them and berating children who got the position your child wanted is not healthy. Your child isn’t entitled to anything. Life won’t cater to their desires and wants. Be very intentional about keeping them off the road of anger and bitterness. Help them accept what happened and see the positive in it. Teach them to “lose well.”

5) Help them persevere. My goal is that my kids will never allow defeat to keep them down. Vince Lombardi (legendary former coach of our favorite football team – the Green Bay Packers) once said, “It’s not whether you get knocked down. It’s whether you get up.” So I always ask my children, “Do you still want to make the basketball team . . . or get elected as an officer . . . or make the choir?” If they say yes, I follow with, “Then what do you think you need to do to make that happen?” We then set goals and they work hard. Vince also said, “Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.”

So much potential!! 🙂

6) Point them to Christ. Do not make them dependent on you! Hardships provide tremendous opportunities for your child to solidify their relationship with Jesus. My prayer is always that God will make Himself very real to my kids and that they will cling to Him experiencing comfort, love, and strength in His embrace.

Our son is undergoing rigorous basketball training right now. The other night, there came a point when coach was pushing, pushing, pushing. At one point he literally laid down flat out on the court – arms extended out to the side (for just a few seconds). He’d given all he had. Then he got back up and pushed on. The coach, a pastor, is pouring things into our son that he would never have received if he had made the school team!!

When I picked my son up from school the day he lost the election, the first thing he said (even though his heart was breaking) was, “I didn’t get it. But Mom, it’s okay. It’s God’s plan. I know Jaycee will do a great job. As soon as I heard she won, I went up to her and congratulated her.”  In that moment, he made me more proud at the way he “lost” than I would have been if he had won.

Our son is developing character. If we could keep an eternal, heavenly perspective as parents, we would see that character development is far more important than getting perfect grades or being a superstar athlete.  These days, godly character, work ethic, morality, and respect are no longer valued the way they used to be. And that’s a shame. Because, in reality, godly character is far greater than anything else we can ever desire for our kids.

What do you think? How do you walk with your kids through loss and challenge? How do you feel about character development and what are you doing to develop it in your kids?

Because families are worth fighting for . . .



  1. Candace says:

    Please add a new post!

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