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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Losing it

Aiden has always been a competitive kid. Be it pressing of the lift button, or the racing of his toy cars, or simply running from point A to B, he always wanted to be first and has always found it upsetting to lose. He would get mad, cry, shout, and even ask you to stop whenever he is losing.

When I told him about the many competitions that I had won in the past, he insisted that I take the trophies and medals out from the storeroom and show it to him. He was fascinated as I explained to him what the trophies and medals were for, and I could see the sparkle in his eyes. For some reason, he preferred winning trophies to medals. Maybe bigger is better to him.

As much as I was happy to see him looking up to me, I was very concerned that he could not handle failure. Not everyone can be a winner and I wasn’t going to give him prizes just for participating. Besides EQ and IQ, I feel that it is important for Aiden to develop his AQ - Adversity Quotient. Since young, we told him to try to win, but the most important thing is to have done his best. We also make it a point to praise his efforts (regardless winning or losing) and encourage him to try again whenever he fails at something.

We weren’t sure how he would react in a proper race against strangers, so we were really looking forward to the Baby & Junior Race organised by eXplorerkid at Downtown East Pasir Ris last week. Secretly, I was hoping that he would lose so that I could use it as an opportunity for him to learn about losing. I was apprehensive leading up to the race though, as he kept on asking about whether there will be trophies to win there.

The race involved running short distances to collect puzzle pieces, and then using those pieces to build a structure that mirrors a random picture. Parents were not allowed to touch the child or the puzzle pieces but could give instructions. So difficult!

As there were many heats in our age category, there was plenty of time for me to observe how other teams handled the race. There were kids who were competitive, and there were kids who didn’t seem to know that they were in a race. Many couldn’t finish the puzzle within the time limit of 3 minutes, while some decided to go freestyle and make their own design. Disturbingly, some parents scolded their child for not being able to complete the puzzle, and some left looking visibly frustrated.

I told Aiden that our strategy was for him to pick up two puzzle pieces each time with both hands to save time. I also explained that he must mirror the picture exactly with the puzzle pieces. Just before our turn came, I reminded him to try his best. And then I prayed that we didn’t win.

I was so glad that it went according to plan! He completed the race in just over a minute and came in second in the heat. I was beaming with pride because he followed my instructions and was so focused on the tasks! He did ask whether he won but we told him we would have to wait for the results. We didn’t stay for the overall results as it was getting late and headed straight for lunch.

I thought he was upset about the race, as he didn’t ask about the trophies after lunch. After dinner, I couldn’t wait any longer.

Me: Aiden, do you want to know if you won a trophy today?

Aiden: <silence>

Me: Actually, you did well in our heat, but there were many other kids in the same category and you didn’t win the race.

Aiden: <silence>

Me: How do you feel? Are you sad?

Aiden: ... No.

Me: But you didn’t win a trophy. You are ok?

Aiden: ... It is ok.

Me: Why do you think it is ok?

Aiden: I tried my best!

I have never found so much joy in brainwashing people. Well done my dear Aiden. Looking forward to seeing you up a podium to collect your first trophies!


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