Social media has been a great way for me to keep up with my siblings and friends throughout the country. It’s nice to see how people are doing; find joy in their ups and even offer prayers for their downs. Many times I will see comments about how time flies or “Just yesterday my kid was in the third grade and now he is graduating college.” It’s an online newspaper of those who are in our lives. It also provides articles on everything; and I mean everything….
In the last several months, I viewed posts by friends, but mostly friends of friends, who are attending their child’s sporting or other events. The posts are filled with anticipation and excitement for the event and its conclusion.
In between, I have noticed pictures and posts from parents and other spectators in complete agony during the event. Some posts even had comments like, “This is excruciating! I can’t take it anymore!” or “I can’t believe we lost to the Tigers,” or even, “I hope Caleb isn’t too upset he played so poorly today.”
While the words are purposely stated, it’s the body language in the pictures that says more than the words.
There were pictures of a mom with her shoulders draped over a chain link fence with her hands on her face while her son pitched.
One post stated a mom was regretting she made her son “play up” a level because he was not holding his own with players two years older.
There was a post by a parent at a baseball game who videotaped an irate parent yelling at his son when he struck out. This guy got up, stomped down the bleachers in disgust while his kid walked back to the dugout with his head down.
I have read stories of parents who were so upset with their child that they gave a hefty dose of the silent treatment in the car during the ride home.
I saw a post from a parent who said, “If we don’t win the sectionals, I don’t know what I will do!”
A parent of a dancer stated she couldn’t believe the costumes cost so much for such a poor performance.
Wait. What? Huh?
What message are we sending our children when we react this way to their performances in these events? Do they feel like they have let their parents down?
Do they think their parents are mad at them because they didn’t do as well as their parents expected?
More than likely.
Due to parents’ body language and side comments heard by the child, that child will, down the road, feel he or she will never live up to the expectations of the parents. What is even more confusing to the child is an artificial, “Good job, Emma!” to her face when, in fact, Emma witnessed her parents’ true colors in the stands.
We all want our bear cubs to succeed. They are our world. It hurts us more than it does them. I remember the same feelings with my own kids. My awakening was when my youngest lost an important hockey game. I was so bummed and I thought he would be in pieces. He climbed into the car and asked if we could go to Culver’s for dinner. Moment gone. He moved on. Most of them do.
We use our endearing words during cherished times with our kids. We use our instructional words during teaching moments with our kids. We use encouraging words to our kids during bonding times.
Yet, we use degrading words and emotional body language toward our kids during a time when we don’t realize they are noticing. Losses and poor performances are chances to teach that things are not always going to go the way they want.
Our negative reactions teach our children we are sore losers. This is the best time to teach a child to be humble and proud of his efforts despite the even’s outcome.
In this season of reflection,
We should realize that typically, at age 9, half of their life with their parents at home is over.
We should realize we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff in the big picture of life.
We should realize they perceive things differently than their parents. Probably more accurately, too.
We should realize they are who they are and that is not a direct reflection of their parents.
We should realize they are children, figuring out who they are from the inside out.
We should realize they shared their only snack with another child who didn’t have one at school.
We should realize they prayed for a friend whose guinea pig died yesterday.
We should realize they are amazing all the way down to their core.
We should just step back and realize it.
In this season of Thanksgiving,
We should be thankful for who they are, not what they did — or didn’t do.
We should be thankful they are healthy enough to participate in the activities over which we agonize.
We should be thankful for their smile, laugh and unique sense of humor.
We should be thankful for the ways they show they love us, be it a card written in Sharpie that bled through to the kitchen table, or a peanut butter and pine cone bird feeder made from the heart of a bird lover.
We should be thankful for the resources to allow them to try different things.
We should be thankful God gave us the gift of our children. Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a gift from God. They are a reward from him.”
We should just step back and be thankful.
(Campbell, a freelance writer, teaches third grade.)