Dr Airdre Grant
Dr Airdre Grant

Learning how to lose is better than trophy

THE school carnival was in full swing. Loads of kids milling around, parents shouting instructions to drink water and wear hats , the smell of a sausage sizzle hung over the proceedings and a general atmosphere of just managed, good-natured chaos.

I stood on the side and watched the running race. Two kids whizzed out front and won comfortably, a big clump of students thundered across the line and at the rear a couple of red faced, puffing kids soldiered bravely on to finish.

A lone parental voice called out "You're all winners” as the last child crossed the finish line.

I thought to myself, of course we are not all winners. It's a ridiculous statement along with 'You can achieve anything you want if just believe!'

There is a big difference between praise and encouragement. Praise says things like: you are wonderful, marvellous, fantastic, amazing, incredible, best in the world, top of the universe and so on.

But does talk like that stick? To my mind, encouragement is better than praise. Praise so often rings hollow. Encouragement says things like, 'Good running, next time better? Is running your thing?' Encouragement says such as, what if we tried another way, what can I do to help?

Encouragement doesn't pretend we are all winners. Encouragement knows some of us are good at some things and some are good at others. Seems reasonable to me. I don't try to win at things I am not good at. The 'trophy syndrome' means everyone gets a prize, even for showing up.

Of course recognition of achievement is important, but a prize for everything? It's not such a bad thing to lose and learn how to pick yourself up, to work out where you can actually win /get somewhere. Isn't that how you learn what matters and what your strengths and weaknesses are?

Cut back to sports day: I watched the races and cheered on the teams. It was fun. As for 'we are all winners!' I thought maybe that's just me. I am a slow runner. I always come last. When it comes to games, I am the designated loser. I lose every game I play. It's just the way it is. I don't mind. I find it takes all the competitive pressure out. You see, I play for fun, not to win. I can sit back and enjoy myself while others jostle for position, argue, get the huff and stalk off, throw things, sulk and weep. On the rare occasion I win, everyone is surprised, most of all me.

I went over to the sausage sizzle. To my mind there's nothing as good as a school sausage sizzle. It's got all the right ingredients for a good time. Cheap food, cooked on the spot and cheerfully served. A sausage sizzle wins no prizes of 'hats' but it's a winning culinary event for me.


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