Allow children to be second-best and good enough


There are some parents in this world who, in an effort to bolster the self-esteem, praise the child for being great. They give the child opportunities to do great things, and make a point to tell the children how great they are. Ensuring the child is first and best is their focus.

While I’m all for having a strong self-esteem, I don’t think our parenting should be centered on it. In fact, rather than ensuring our children are first and great, we should give them ample opportunity to be second-best and good enough.

Many of today’s sporting events aren’t scored and every child receives a trophy. Lest any child’s self-esteem be hurt by losing, these parents teach that win or lose, you’re still great.

Also think about the parents who insist on their child being first and best. They might argue with a teacher on a “B” grade even when the work doesn’t reflect “A” effort. They hire a private coach so the child can be first and best in a particular sport. Or they hire a professional tutor, not for a remedial child, but so the child can be better and smarter than his peers. The playing field is anything but level.

Imagine the attitude issues that come from being first and great:

  • Boastful pride
  • Thinking you’re better than everyone else
  • Teasing others for not being as great
  • Winning is everything, no matter how it affects others around you

Alternatively, being second-best and good enough teaches the child that:

  • A humble attitude is better than a boastful one
  • He does not walk on water
  • Second-rate effort earns second-rate grades
  • Considering others is more important than winning
  • Coping with loss is a skill to be learned

Consider how you might react when your child comes in second or is only good enough (not great). Will you complain to those in authority, or will you be honest with the child and tell him that he didn’t do his best? If he loses a T-ball game, will you run out and hire a professional coach? Or will you practice with him at home, teaching him the value of practice and hard work? Better yet, will you teach him the emotional skills that are required to cope with the loss?

With your little ones, think about ways that you can ensure the child doesn’t always win. If you’re playing a board game, don’t throw it every time. If you’re racing down the street, only let him win in his own right.

Throughout your parenting years, allow your child to lose. Yes, we always want the best for them. But being first and great isn’t always what’s best. The more you allow a child to lose, the better he’ll be able to cope with losing as an adult and the more he’ll learn the value of giving honest effort.


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