“I know you don’t, but you signed up for this tournament and I expect that you will follow through,” I replied.
There, I had an important decision: save him from his own decisions and behavior or let him suffer the natural consequences. I chose the latter.
My son had asked to be part of a local Tae Kwon Do tournament. He wasn’t prepared. He told me he didn’t want to go and I replied that he was going to follow through on his commitment.
I texted my husband. I filled him in that our son was woefully unprepared and it was obvious from warm ups that he was going to fail … miserably. My husband nervously responded that perhaps we should just leave.
Not. An. Option. Jack asked to be part of this event. He chose to not practice. He chose not to prepare. Yes, he’s only 9. But lessons learned early stick and this was going to be one hard lesson.
I watched him struggle through forms. Out of three kids, he came in third.
I watched him struggle with breaking the boards. Out of two kids, he came in second.
At first, I made it about me and what other moms would think. Who is that kid who doesn’t know what he is doing? Why won’t that mom put him out of his misery and take him home? Does that mom care about him, he isn’t even prepared?
But, in that moment, something changed.
It wasn’t about me. It was about him. He was choosing to not pay attention in class. He was choosing not to practice at home. He was choosing to sign up for tae kwon do tournaments. Nine years old isn’t too soon to learn three important lessons:
1. If you are not prepared, you have a greater chance of failing.
This goes for anything in life. Sports tournaments, tests, meetings, presentations. One of the best ways to experience success is to prepare. If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
2. Uncomfortable feelings happen, work through them.
Stress, nervousness, discomfort, fear, anxiety. We experience all of these uncomfortable feelings every day. One of the best ways to built resilient children is to prepare them for dealing with the uncomfortable feelings they will experience when facing challenges.
3. Responsibility for your own actions.
I need my son (on some level) to think about the part he played in his failure an how he can change that next time. Learning from, and accepting responsibility for, failures will help him remember this experience and better prepare next time.
Failure is not fun an it’s not something I’m going to intentionally set my children up for. However, failure is an important part of life and the more I prepare my children for facing and successfully overcoming failure, the better prepared they will be to face the more complex obstacles as they grow.