|Lee may be runnerup again in his Olympic quest against Lin Dan but his effort and unflagging spirit serve as an inspiration to parents in dealing with their aspirations for their children.
TEENS & TWEENS
By CHARIS PATRICK
So the London 2012 Olympic Games ended on Sunday. Throughout the two-week sporting extravaganza, athletes from around the world eagerly and anxiously fought to win that coveted gold. It goes without saying that everyone wants to win but there can only be one winner for the gold medal. And because of that, we need to tread carefully on how we discuss the Olympians and their achievements with our teens and tweens.
As it is, many of our kids experience a great deal of pressure to excel in school, sport, music and other areas of their lives. This pressure can come from within themselves or externally from parents, teachers and even peers. During the Olympics, were we so obsessed with gold-winning that we equated getting silver with a loss rather than being second in the world?
I believe most parents follow the maxim, “Do your best!” But if we are not careful, our obsession with gold medal or No 1 may well be interpreted as “Do your best and win at all cost!” where moral character, honour and integrity (as shown by unsporting behaviour or doping) may be compromised. It would seem that winning is everything while effort and doing your best come second.
All sportspersons will tell you that finishing first sure beats ending up second. I’m no sportsman. But I know in any game it’s possible to come in second and still be a winner. That is if you’ve truly given your all, persevered through and completed the race with the true spirit of sportsmanship.
So what did we say to our impressionable tweens and teens after that fateful Aug 5 when Lin Dan beat Datuk Lee Chong Wei again to the Olympic gold in the men’s singles badminton? Did the gritty Malaysian win silver or lose gold? At the same time, were we able to rejoice with the gold medallist? The answers to these questions make a big difference.
Of course, as a nation we were disappointed, mainly because we were greatly hopeful of Lee avenging his defeat at the Beijing Olympics final four years ago at the hands of his arch-rival from China. We also rued the fact that Lee had lost narrowly this time in a three-set thriller.
Indeed, we had high expectations of our badminton star.
Similarly, as parents, if our children have been high achievers all along, we will inevitably have high expectations of them. But, what if one day he or she did not top the class or score 100 marks? How are we going to respond? What are we going to say to our kids who have fallen short of our (and maybe their own) expectations?
Following his second placing, Lee has said that he’d like to have a crack at the Olympic badminton gold again in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016, if he is physically up to it. He’s teared, apologised, dealt with his heartache, rebounded from his disappointment, resolved to try again and not given up. That’s
a display of great resilience and sportsmanship.
More importantly, I believe it is the love, acceptance and support given to him by all Malaysians that has given him the courage and strength to fight on.
It is no different in parenting. When our high-achieving kids miss the mark, we should first deal with our own disappointment. Otherwise our response may let our kids down and eventually lead to an undesirable outcome. Work through our own emotions and expectations. Put ourselves in their shoes.
If we were subjected to the same amount of pressure and high expectations, how would we fare?
I think we know the answer very well. With more compassion, hopefully, our love will be “less conditioned” – loving them for who they are more than what they can achieve. It is when our children feel loved, accepted and supported by us that they continue to excel.
The Olympics offers wonderful opportunities for some great conversations with the kids not just to spur them on in sports but also on winning and losing, dealing with disappointment, never giving up, teamwork, self-discipline, mental strength, and even integrity.
One fine example of London 2012 came courtesy of the Japanese women’s football team who was beaten 1-2 in the final by their American counterparts. The squad members were reported to have quickly recovered from the loss and rejoiced at getting silver. As Hannah Beech observed in her article for TIME (on olympics.time.com):
“Despite a stream of tears in the minutes after the match ended, the Japanese team soon acted as if they had won silver, not lost the gold.”
This is a reminder that winning gold is not everything. Focusing on the process, effort and other intangibles is equally important.
The Olympic Games may be over but let those conversations continue. Clearly, what happened at the Olympics can be a massive learning experience for many.
Charis Patrick is a trainer and family life educator who is married with four children.