Friday, 12 December 2014

If you never truly experience losses, the wins aren't so special.

My daughter informed me that she was going to try and make prefect. I asked her how were prefects determined since I had been through a similar process at my school. She explained that she had nominated herself by writing an expression of interest. Completing it at school meant there was no parental influence involved in the process. It was 100% student driven. Mattise talked her best friend into nominating herself, as she needed a little encouragement. A week later Mattise told me the executives elected her as a prefect for 2015. She was so excited as her best friend made prefect too. Being so happy for her best friend was heart warming.

Shortly after learning she was a prefect they wrote a speech at school to become school captain. This was going to be presented the following day and the entire school would vote for School and Vice Captains. Again, parents had no input or influence on their speeches. Mattise told me about this after the event and didn’t want to talk about her speech. She said, “I’m good mum.” The next afternoon she jumped in my car and told me she didn’t get captain. She said that while she was disappointed, she’s ok. When we got home I asked if she wanted to talk? As she ran up the stairs, she responded by saying, “Is it ok if I shed just one tear?” This comment really surprised me.

Now I’ll be honest, I was wondering what I would say to Mattise if she came downstairs all upset and crying. Was she putting on a brave face for me? How would this affect her self-confidence? How can I help her with this? What could I say to her to make it better? I then thought about the advice I share as a teacher when a student isn’t elected or selected for leadership positions or representative teams. Here are two links to building resiliency.

A teaching perspective
A parenting perspective

How do we as parents support our children when are they aren’t elected or selected for sports or leadership opportunities? While some parents may believe their child deserved to be elected or selected, complaining about it doesn’t change the situation. I’ve heard of parents who buy their children trophies if they don’t win one. Or how they purchase gifts to make them feel better. Or how they take their child somewhere ‘fun’ to take their mind off their disappointment. But what is this really doing? In my opinion, this is not allowing the child to acknowledge or accept reality. We (those with life experience) all know that you don’t always get what you want… even if you work really hard. Sometimes the nicest people finish last or the kindest person is dealt with a devastating illness. If I start protecting Mattise from this small event, how will she develop resilience? After thinking about this for about ten minutes, I decided that I didn’t want to soften or shelter her from this learning experience.

I was somewhat surprised when she came downstairs smiling. "I am focusing on the fact that my bestie and I are still prefects." That night I was an extremely proud of my daughter. Mattise had decided for herself that it wasn’t the end of the world. She had congratulated those who had won and was grateful for what she had received. Life is going to provide Mattise with many disappointments. Why would I dilute this valuable resilience building experience? A few tears now will make her more resilient in the future.

Today Mattise returned from school and announced that she was awarded Band Captain, which apparently is an awesome position and what's more, her male co-captain is her friend.

We must allow our children or students to build their resilience.

Resilience & Grit: Resource Roundup from Edutopia


  1. I love this post. I connected with it as a Band Mom; my daughter once told me, "I'm just not good at winning elections!" {sniff, sniff}. And I love that she did this totally on her own. Talk about voice and choice. So delighted to have stumbled on your reflections, Andrea!


  2. Thanks for another great post, and very useful links, Andrea. I related to this as a father of a 12 year-old daughter and as a teacher! I really appreciate the way you blog - wide ranging topics running through a very genuine and candid stream of conscious. Cheers, Chris.