Olympic Values: Week Two- Kids Growing in Excellence

“In the dust of defeat as well as the laurels of victory there is a glory to be found if one has done his best.”  ― Eric Liddell

Helping a Child Grow in Excellence

As I mentioned last week in my post Olympic Value: Week One- Respect, there three Olympic values. Last week’s post describe how I tried to apply the value of respect to my four year old’s life. This week we are going to look at the value of excellence.

Here is how it is defined on the Olympic site:

excellence – how to give the best of oneself, on the field of play or in life; taking part; and progressing according to one’s own objectives

The first thing I noticed when I read the definition above it what it doesn’t mention winning. Winning seems to be something that my guy was born wanting to do. He has to win when he races the next door neighbor on his bike and when he is trying to get to the kitchen first for dinner. I don’t know how many times I have heard him saying, “ I win!”

What is he winning? Well, there isn’t a gold medal awarded by getting to the dinner table first. The hope is that everyone will be awarded a healthy and appetizing meal when we have dinner. There is only a brief moment of contentment that he has beat someone out of getting there before him.

What is worse it that he tries to elbow past his dad, who is trying to only walk quickly and not run to the kitchen. Actually the worst part is that after announcing that he has won, he turns to his dad and declares him a rotten egg.

Before I continue, I need to confess something to you. I started all this racing around. In trying to get JDaniel to come upstairs faster for his bath and to get dressed instead of dawdling I started to declare the climb up the steps a race. I might have even done a little victory dance at the end.

Now that I have started this racing to and from different places in the house it is my job to stop it. Racing around hasn’t promoted giving the best of oneself and the joy of taking part or progressing according to one’s own objectives.

What do we do now?

Giving the Best of Oneself

Giving the best doesn’t mean diminishing what others are trying to do or forcing others into letting you win. The little boy next door rides this bike without training wheels and he can fly around the neighborhood. When he is racing JDaniel he barely pedals so, my guy with training wheels can win.

He has learned that giving the best of oneself means that JDaniel will fuss about how it isn’t fair and try to make him feel bad. There will also be four year old trash talk being hurled at him from behind as well as whining. While I am grateful that he is willing to try to help a friend avoid a meltdown, the victory is hollow. The boy next door isn’t giving his best and Jdaniel isn’t encouraging him too.

Recently we have been encouraging just enjoying the ride and noticing how you can go faster without training wheels. We have also been working on using words that encourage and don’t try to make others feel bad.

Giving the best that you can is what is important not declaring someone else isn’t as good as you think you are. You might find out as JDaniel will that the other people not giving their best isn’t the kind of win you really want.

Taking Part

Over and over again I have heard athletes who are attending their second or third Olympics tell reporters that this Olympics is going to the be one that they finally enjoy. That means that they were so focused on other things that they weren’t able to enjoy the performances they gave and the events they attended.

It is kind of sad to think that after years of work and effort you can’t enjoy taking part of your achievement. I am not saying they shouldn’t be focused preparing and attempting to do their very best. There is a lot to be said for getting to the point in your life when you are the best in the world at something.

It does sound like some of them attended the Olympics with horse blinders on and they weren’t able to see or enjoy the things around them, because they honestly didn’t notice them. They were focused on their goal. Maybe that is what you have to do to win at that level. I hope that each athlete can find one things to smile about at the Olympics though.

My husband and I need to work with JDaniel on finding joy and happiness in getting to complete a task whether it be getting to the dinner table or around the block.

How do we do that?

I think it means slowing down and talking about how your body celebrates when a task is completed well. Do feel a smile your face, do you feel a leap in your heart, do you want to do a little dance, or share a high five? While you may feel tired, do you feel you want to give a sigh of achievement.

Looking back at how well you accomplished the task in regards to how you treated other people during it is also important. Did you elbow past someone? Did you say something to make them feel bad? Did you handle your victory if you had one with grace or did you rub it in?

Progressing According to Your Own Goals

An announcer at the Opening Ceremonies mentioned that many of the athletes marching into the games would never medal and some wouldn’t even make it past their event preliminary event. Many he commented had reached their goal by just coming to the games.
As JDaniel’s mom I think it is part of my job to help JDaniel set short term and long term goals. The short term goals can be to build a tower that won’t fall over when a robot struts past it or learning to tie his shoes. A long term goal is to respond to your parents in a way that will help you gain what you want if they think it is okay.

The short term goals are actually JDaniel’s and the long term goal. The long term goal is mine, but it is one we need to work on. As we talk about goals, I try let JDaniel set most of his goals, but some goals are strongly suggested by my husband or me.

At four I think JDaniel is able to help set goals and he seems to love knowing he has achieved them.

Next week is the final post in this series on Olympic values. It will focus on friendship.

How have you helped your children work on this value?


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  1. says

    It’s tricky at this age, because kids are in an egocentric phase developmentally. So it’s normal for them to act like this, and we have to help them see things differently. We work on it here too, but my discussions often seem to go over his head I think.

  2. says

    Great ideas! Sometimes though I think our expectations of children this age are way too high. I personally just want to let my kids be kids :) Let them explore the world on their own and figure out how things work in “the real world.” Teaching your children to set and meet goals is definitely a great trait to instill in them while young and heck. Who doesn’t like to “win” sometimes :)

  3. says

    I can really connect to what you are writing about. Desire to win is strong here too, I think it’s stronger in “onlies” than in children with siblings, because they are not used to real competition. We are also working on setting and achieving goals. Unfortunately, sometimes the goal is achieved, and then the old behavior returns again.

  4. says

    Living a life beyond yourself:) This is what I’m trying to instill in our children. We always say winning is a bonus,be happy you are there and having the experience. Our son does gymnastics and he always congrats the children on either side of him. It takes the focus off of self:)

  5. says

    I can sympathise.I also started it with my daughter so that she gets dressed quickly.I suppose it is also an age thing.We recently bought a book titled “winning isn’t everything” though she is not keen to read it 😉

  6. says

    I learn something from every single one of your posts. Q is just starting to get to the racing stage. It’s not a competition yet – more of an “I’m going to get you” game of chase – but this is a great lesson to keep in mind when the time comes. Which will be, like, tomorrow! :) Thank you!

  7. says

    I definitely think my expectations are sometimes to high and then I get upset at myself for feeling like this. I also need to try to be more supportive of what Hayley wants to do-rather than myself. Thank you for the post. I always love your posts!

  8. says

    Great stuff. We tried explaining to our son what goals are and we started off by telling him some of our goals to give him an example b/c he was a bit confused. He immediately chimes in with that look in his face, like I got this down. He says “My goal is not to do homework all year.” LOL

  9. says

    On Feb. 19, 2010, I wrote a post about excellence and the Winter Olympics. Unfortunately, no one read it because my blog was very new at the time. If you have the time, please check it out and let me know what you think. I am proud as well of the men my boys have become. I think the most important way to instill values in your children is to live them yourself. The apple does not fall far from the tree.

  10. says

    Great Post! You hit the nail on the head. WE are the examples, and when children see us rushing around, they do it too! If we stop to enjoy the ride and not focus solely on the destination they will follow our lead!

    Thanks for the visit today, feel free to reach out to me when you are ready to hit NYC, I’d be happy to give you family friendly recos, one that wasn’t in my post is the children’s museum. I’ll probably have to make a part two to the post so I can add some more places to the list! :)

    Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly

  11. says

    Oh kids can be so tricky and especially frustrating when t hey turn something around and use it differently than you intended.

    My boys race EVERYWHERE! Of course, it’s usually my older one who wins which causes my younger son to have several meltdowns. Oh so much fun!

    I love your great ideas :)

  12. says

    Dear friend,
    I am not a parent but certainly understand the joy and sorrows with kids. You are a good Mom!! You know the saying…”kids will be kids”. Your post was very interesting.

  13. says

    I try to model language that emphasizes the effort. Instead of “I win,” I say “I did it” or “beautiful!” when competing the task or giving a good effort. The kids I teach pick up these sayings without me even trying and before you know it everyone is saying “beautiful” when they achieve something.

  14. says

    I’m struggling with this as well. I keep telling myself that maybe he is just too young, but you are right, the basic concepts are definitely worth addressing at this point.

  15. says

    When my guy was young we did the same thing, that is letting him win, when in fact there was no way he could have won if we as parents had tried. The first time we showed him that he could lose was when he was three (we knew we had to do something, because he was going into preschool and we didn’t want a possible meltdown away from us). He loved to race in our yard and we decided that it was a perfect place to do it. He raced his dad and his dad won. For five more times my son made his father race again. Two times we let him win. This way he understood that there were victories and losses. The melt down we thought would be there wasn’t. Later that night while we sat around the table he said that sometimes it is good to lose. And honestly that was the end of it. What we thought was going to be a big issue, actually worked out pretty well. Hope you get the same with your son. Funny how after we did that, he would yell that we were not trying hard enough.

  16. says

    Oh I so needed this today! I too at one time encouraged the kids to race in order to get things done, bu yes that is one that can easily come back to bite you in the butt.
    And yes, to find more joy in the process, so worth trying to learn to do.

  17. says

    So hard to teach children context…some things are valuable/acceptable in certain contexts and not in others. Good job, JD’s mom; I admire your constancy in trying to teach him.

  18. says

    Winning is such a big thing at that age.
    It was the one down side of doing a kids’ Olympics at our house – my daughter and one of our friends who came both were upset if they didn’t think they were going to win.
    We talked about how we should just do our best, and that we aren’t going to win at everything…but I definitely have a ways to go getting her to see that.

  19. says

    we have that problem to… he likes to be the “champion” we are trying to teach that he is always a winner, for trying… but that doesn’t seem to make it better some times…

  20. says

    Great ideas! We don’t want to be like Ryan Lochte’s mom and end up yaaking about what a stud he is! UGH! I have seen people like Lochte full of himself get shot down and he now has a dozen excuses why he failed!Pro athletes seem to be half and half. Some are humble winning or losing and others are such jerks! WE need more heroes that are “real” for our kids! Like Missy Franklin!
    My hat is off to Michael Phelps. The gossip and back talk about him was unreal this year! From many of his own team mates. I wish him well in his retirement.
    Your words were written so wonderfully.

  21. says

    I love how much thought, reflection and effort you put into being a mama! He’ll figure some of this out just by you and your husband quietly setting the example with the way you walk to the table, etc. Wonderful post!

  22. says

    Great post! We are models for our children, I try to model for Anthony how to be a kind and respectful person, but have self-respect. I want him to be kind to others, but not let others make decisions for him.

  23. says

    I agree with so much of what you said. We encouraged Morgan (our youngest) to try whatever sport / activity that she wanted… we had but one rule, “If you put on the shoes (dance, basketball, soccer, etc.), you must wear them until the season is over.” She learned that you mustn’t quit. Persevere until the end.

    She did a year or two of a few sports — and a total of 10 years of ballet.

    She wore the shoes.

    Terri P
    pr4gatheringroses AT gmail DOT com

  24. says

    You always have such inKredible insight into children.

    I truly wish I would have known you when my kids were small. It always felt like the advice from the books never quite applied to real life.

    Thank you.

    For sharing your thoughts and your fascinating JDaniel with us all.


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