Should we lessen disappointment and rejection for our children?

I read this blog recently about why your kids being left out of things is good thing. It focused on that kids were not learning to handle disappointment and rejection because we, as parents, have become too worried about hurting their feelings. Invitations have to go to everyone so no one is left out. We give second place trophies or all participants get a medal. I don’t recall any of that while growing up, but I do recall the horrible feeling of being left out and of course as a parent I want to minimize that as much as possible for my kids.

Both Jase and Lexie’s schools have policies that if you are sending birthday party invitations through the school, you have to invite everyone or at least all of one gender. I know this is done so you don’t exclude someone and hurt their feelings. So far, we have been inviting the whole class but that means larger birthday parties. Since we usually do them at a party place, more invitees of course means more money. For Jase, we have told him that next year when he turns 9, he can only invite a select few friends. By this age, I expect the other kids to be a little better equipped to handle not being invited than at the kindergarten age.

left outI know kids have to learn about disappointment, but it is hard to know you are being left out of the fun. My daughter Lexie idolizes one of Jase’s friends who lives in our neighborhood. Emily likes playing with Lexie but there is a two year difference in age. One day, Emily had an all-girls play date, and she didn’t invite Lexie. We walk with them daily and the play date never came up. Lexie found out about it when Emily and two other friends were talking about it on the day of the get together. Lexie was crushed not to be invited. She cried all the way home. And no amount of explaining that her friend might want to play with girls her own age would make it better. I know this won’t be the last instance of heartache, but it was hard to watch. If I had known what was coming, I would have avoided the situation by not walking home with the neighbors that day as Lexie was after all only four at the time. There is no way she would understand not being included.

2nd placeAs for the sport organizations giving out trophies for all participants, Jase’s karate group does that. They have a tournament each session and everyone either gets a first or second place trophy. Jase has come in second place every time. Not once has he been excited about getting a second-place award. He knows it isn’t first and is disappointed. This actually has inspired him to train extra hard for the next tournament which was this month. He came in second place again though he did do much better this time and only lost by one point.

In the case of sports and trophies, I am fine with them not giving out awards to everyone. I know that my kids need to learn that they will not be the best at everything. But as for being left out, I am torn. Yes, I know it will happen but gosh is it hard to watch, or as I remember it, it is hard to endure. I don’t know that it makes anyone better to feel unwanted for whatever reason.

Allowing kids to just be kids: Limiting their extracurricular activities

School, homework and just normal play time takes up a great amount of time but I still like for the kids to have an organized activity such as a sport or music class to join.

I try to keep their extra activities to just one each for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t want to spend my time chauffeuring them around every day. Second, I don’t believe in over scheduling their time. No one needs an extra activity every day of the week. I want them to be able to just play with their friends too or read a book or just do nothing. They don’t need every minute of their day scheduled.

I don’t dictate what activities they join but the only stipulation is that once they start something, they must continue through that season/session. If after that they don’t want to continue, then they are free to stop and pick a new activity. And of course, they don’t have to do an activity, but I want to encourage them to try new things.

Lexie has had way fewer opportunities to do organized activities. I think that is because we found out many of them didn’t work for Jase at such a young age. But now that she is about to turn 5 (in just two months) we signed her up for dance class last week. Lexie has always liked to jump and twirl around the room. She also likes to tumble so we debated between dance or gymnastics. Then I found the perfect class – it is a combination ballet, tap and gymnastics class. They spend 30 minutes on dance and 30 minutes on gymnastics. I also like that the class is centered around having fun rather than preparing for a recital at the end of the session.  (No expensive outfit that she will only wear once.)

IMG_0481Lexie has also expressed an interest in karate and soccer – two sports that Jase has already done. In fact, tomorrow Jase will resume karate where he currently is a green belt.

Jase at age 4 did basketball, which consisted of him mainly standing around looking lost. That summer he started swimming lessons but after a year of lessons I didn’t feel he had advanced as much as he should and discontinued them. Lexie would like swimming lessons but after all the money spent on Jase, it has soured me to using that swim studio, and I have yet to find another one that I like.

Jase also took a sports trial class at age 5 where they spent each class on a different sport. That Fall he began a two-year music program which Lexie has expressed a desire to take too. (You have to be 5 to start so she would start in August if she is still interested.) Jase also did soccer that Spring along with the music class. It is the only time he has had two activities.

I have noticed that Jase does best with individual sports like karate, which he began last January. With both soccer and basketball, he seemed lost and a little timid. I get the feeling that he really isn’t into sports but last year he asked for karate and seems to enjoy it.

So for this semester we have our activities. I will strive to keep their activities to just one each but definitely no more than two and that is something I know I will be able to enforce because after all kids need time to just be kids.