Teaching Your Children How to Lose

My daughter wasn’t crying because she lost the spelling bee. She was crying because she got knocked out in the second round. She’s smart. That’s her thing. So missing the word tofu embarrassed her. To make it worse, she knew every word after that.

The tears started just as I was tucking her into bed. “I didn’t want to win the whole thing,” she said, “I just didn’t want to miss one so early.” What was I supposed to say? Better luck next time? Just keep trying? No one likes tofu?

We spend so much time as parents preparing our kids for success that sometimes we do a poor job of preparing them for failure. We help them with homework, drive them to soccer practice and even arrange play dates to help them thrive relationally.

Yet, no matter how much we set up our kids to win, sometimes they are going to lose. That’s just life in a fallen world. Despite their best effort, they will sometimes fail tests, get clobbered in soccer games and struggle to make friends.

How should we react in moments like this? How can we help them deal with disappointment while also preparing them to handle failure as adults?

Thankfully, the night of the spelling bee, God led the conversation exactly where it needed to go, and in the process, I discovered three things I will repeat every time my kids are dealing with failure.

  1. Empathize

Our kids need to know that we see their pain, and we care. When my daughters are hurting, my first instinct is to fix it. I want to give them advice, correct them or coach them how to do better next time.   However, in moments like these, I’m learning that the first thing they need is kindness. So when I didn’t know what to say, I just hugged my daughter and told her, “I know it’s hard and I’m sorry.”

  1. Affirm their identity.

Kids need to know that their value isn’t based on their performance. They are loved because they are children of God. Failure messes with our identity because we all tend to build our self-image around activities that give us affirmation.

That’s why it’s twice as hard when the smart kid gets knocked out of the spelling bee, or the athlete loses a game. A big part of our identity is based on areas of life where we excel.

That night, I reminded my daughter that she is a child of the king, adored by her Dad in heaven and her dad on earth and no spelling bee could change that. I told her that her worth doesn’t come from what she does, but whose she is. She is a daughter of God.

  1. Talk about kingdom.

Our kids need to discover a redemptive view of suffering in the small things to prepare them to navigate more challenging struggles in life. That’s why we need to point them back to the Bible in small moments like these.

Earlier that day, my daughter and I had been talking about Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding” (NLT). It had just popped into my head, and I felt prompted to share it with her. At the time I had no idea why.

When the spelling bee drama unfolded, however, I had a pretty good idea what God was up to. I mentioned the proverb again and suggested, “Maybe this is an opportunity to trust God.”

Later she confessed, “As soon as you read that verse to me, I knew it was about the spelling bee. I knew it was about me trusting God.”

I reminded her that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). That means sometimes He says no to a desire of our heart because He has a better yes waiting for us in the future. It means sometimes He lets us go through hardship so we can comfort others with the comfort we have received (2 Corinthians 1:4). It means that even bad things that happen can give us an opportunity to minister to others and advance the gospel (Phil 1:12).

And that, of course, is the ultimate win.

By reframing my daughter’s loss with a kingdom perspective, God helped me remind her that her life is part of a bigger story and that her purpose goes far beyond winning a spelling bee. At the end of the night, it was that part of conversation that made the biggest difference. She finally had peace about the situation, and soon afterwards, drifted off to sleep.

When it comes right down to it, God’s definition of winning and losing is very different than ours. After all, we follow a Savior who died on a cross. The more we can help our kids see their failures and frustrations from His point of view, the more we can guarantee they will continually experience the only victory that counts.

New Year’s Eve Family Activity

2016

Holidays are a great opportunity to start spiritual conversations at home.  Here’s a fun, family tradition that I shared last year on the blog.  I’m rolling it out again because it was such a powerful experience for our family, and we will definitely be making it an annual tradition.  I hope it blesses your family too!

Holiday: New Year’s Eve

Verse to Remember: Lord, I will remember what you did. Yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. – Psalm 77:11 NIrV

Opening Activity:

Make a family timeline. Write the name of each of the twelve months on a piece of paper and challenge your kids to see how much they can remember that happened in your family’s life in 2015 and write them by the month when they occurred. Include big things and small things, good things and bad things.

For example, you might list things like getting a new pet, having a birthday, starting a new school year, going on vacation, catching the flu, welcoming a new baby brother or sister or even losing a loved one.

Read the Devo together:

Do you think you have a good memory?  How much can you remember that happened in 2015?  Have you noticed that people do a lot of remembering this time of year? Everywhere you look on TV, in magazines and on the internet, people are remembering the best and worst things that happened in 2015. They talk about the biggest news stories, the biggest movies and other special things that happened.

But way more important than remembering all of that stuff is remembering what God has done. New Year’s Eve can be a fun time to look back at the last year and remember the cool things God has been up to in our lives.

Look At the Bible:

In the book of Joshua, the Bible talks about how important it is to remember what God has done. For years and years and years, God had been promising to give His special people, the Israelites, their very own country, a place called the promised land. They used to be slaves in Egypt, but God rescued them, and in this story He does a miracle by stopping the water of a river so the people could cross over to their new home.

Wow, what a big day! The Israelites got a brand new home thanks to God’s amazing power, and they didn’t even have to get wet going there.  God did not want His people to forget the awesome things He had done.  He didn’t want them to forget how much He loved them, so here is what He told them to do.

Read Joshua 4:1-7 together. 

What did Joshua have the people do? How do you think they felt every time they saw that pile of stones?

Bring It Home

Let’s look at our family timeline. Look at all of these things that happened to us this last year. Which months do you think God was with us?  One month?  Two?  No, God was with us every single day.  What are some things on our list that we can thank God for? Where did God show up this year? What are some hard things that He helped us through?

Remembering the cool things God has done gives us courage to face the future.  The same God who was with us this past year, promises to be with us in the new year no matter what.

Prayer:

God, thank you for all that you did in our family this past year. Help us to remember how good You are as we go into the new year. Amen.

Extra Activity:

For an extra activity, make your own monument just like the Israelites did.  Get out the art supplies and have kids draw pictures that remind them of some of the good things God did in your family in the past year.  Put those pictures somewhere your family will see them as you go into the new year together.

3 Ways to Help Your Kids Stay Focused on Jesus at Christmas

December is finally here, and that means the Christmas rush is on. It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also the busiest, and that can make it challenging to help your family stay focused on Jesus.

Here are a few simple ideas to help you recapture breakfast, dinner and bedtime to keep Jesus front and center over the next few weeks.

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Breakfast Time: Finding Jesus Game

See this baby Jesus figure?  Well, you won’t see him for long. That’s because every night after my kids go to bed, I hide it somewhere in plain sight. Their job is to see who can be the first to find Jesus the next morning. Simple as that.

The Finding Jesus game creates a fun excuse to keep Jesus in the center of our day. Around our breakfast table, you’ll hear phrases like:

  • Anyone seen Jesus yet today?
  • Better keep an eye out for Him.
  • Wonder where He’s going to turn up next?

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