Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Trophies, Theatre, and my kids

This morning I read this article I found it from one of my favorite places online here. I have a lot of thoughts about this. I feel very out of practice actually writing anything on my blog, so I'm not sure if any of my thoughts will translate into anything blog-worthy. Let's just see where I go with it. I'm one of the few people that gets annoyed with those emails and facebook posts that talk about if you grew up in the 70s and 80s then you didn't wear seat belts and drank from the water hose and didn't wear bike helmets and played outside and drank koolaid and turned out ok blah blah blah. Those emails often talk about when "not everyone made the team". I'm pretty sure everyone who ever tried to play little league baseball "made the team". Some kids just didn't get as much playing time as others, guess what, that still happens. Now the useless trophies that everyone gets? Those need to go, clearly they don't mean anything. I took dancing lessons from the time I was about 5 until the end of seventh grade. I moved once, switching studios, and then switched studios again when the teacher retired. I never got a trophy because my time at other places didn't count and you needed something like 5 years in one place to get a trophy. This was never a huge deal for me, but it's enough of a point of contention that I remember it. These days kids can play a sport for 6 weeks and come home with a trophy. Those things either end up in the garbage, Goodwill, or the attic. Something that is so easily achieved isn't worth very much. This isn't really supposed to be about trophies as much as it's supposed to be about praise. Today's trophies are empty praise. The article talks about "smart" kids often being unwilling to take risks in fear of losing their "smart" distinction. I've told Jake he's smart before (I mean come on, he is!), I'm going to try to use different descriptions in the future, I can see what they are saying. He's not necessarily very motivated, and he's rarely cooperative, but he is extrememly unique and creative.

Theatre is full of rewards and praise. Rewards in terms of "parts", I admit that I get very excited when my kids get good parts. I love watching them on stage and good parts usually mean more time on stage. I'm proud and happy for them when they get the part they want. You know what though, I'm often even more proud when they get smaller parts and accept them with dignity. We are extremely involved in theatre, the kids perform in at least 5 shows a year, they get a lot of opportunities to accept small parts graciously. In life this may serve them even better than the experiences they get as the lead. We've had opportunites for both. In our theatre crowd there are kids who pretty much always get a lead (they have very little opportunity to grow in "small part grace") there are also kids that are almost always disappointed with their part (often to the point of criticizing others). I didn't think this was going to turn out to be a bragging about my kids kind of post, it was really supposed to be about the negatives of praise, but it's my blog and I'll brag if I want to. Yes sometimes me kids get the lead, but even more importantly, sometimes they don't and I usually end up 'even more prouder' when that happens.

The last point I want to mention in all of this is that praise or lack thereof shouldn't have to be so contrived. I was an early childhood education major once upon a time, so I learned all of things you should and shouldn't say like "I love the colors you used" and not "what a pretty picture" and not "good girl", but "I like the way you are sharing". Have you ever spent much time with a kindergarten teacher? I'm pretty sure kids can pick up on the fakey-ness pretty early. Sometimes, it is just a pretty picture and sometimes your kid is just a good kid. Like everything else in parenting and in life, praise is a balancing act. I'm trying my best to stay on the tightrope. Just in the time that I've bragged about my kids' good sportsmanship in theatre I've also yelled at them for playing video games, not cleaning the kitchen, and doing science without even knowing where the book is. That's how we balance things around here. Now we're heading to church so Jake and Madi can practice singing (Jake is cantoring for the first time this week, Madi is helping him) and Jonathan can program the screens with next week's songs and prayers, from there we will meet Mike for dinner at Five Guys and some cruise shopping, like I said it's all about balance.


Tiffany said...

GREAT post! I'm going to read that article you mentioned too. Being a theatre mom as well, I totally get what you are talking about. Every audition and then finding out parts is stressful--we've had our share of disappointments and happiness here and each brings it's own lessons. I definitely think my kids have more compassion and humility b/c they don't always get the biggest parts.
Jealous about your 5 Guys dinner....

ann marie said...

Good thoughts! Always enjoy the ones on parenting.

bfarmmom said...

Great post Julie. I totally agree about the trophies. I find them all over the house. (and then they disappear) they have come to mean nothing, they really don't have to do anything to earn them. I am also going to read that article.
Did you get my text? Talk to you soon!

Terri said...

I've spent a lot of time pondering this praise thing. Have you ever read anything by Alfie Kohn?

I think he takes it a bit too far. You are right - it's all about balance - as is everything in life, isn't it?

ENJOY your cruise!