You Did Win After All!
How a simple act of empathy and kindness helped the boy become a resilient winner.
By Nalina Ramalakshmi • 7 min read
He lay in his crib, the baby boy, staring at the toy dangling above his face. He reached out to grab it, but completely missed. He kept trying again and again. No luck. Then all of a sudden, one day, he caught hold of the toy. He heard screams of excitement, “He did it. He’s able to reach out and grab the toy!” The baby boy was thrilled. His mother saw him and approved.
As the months went by, the baby boy learnt to crawl and move around. He saw others around him stand up on their two legs and walk around. He too wanted to walk like them. He held on to a chair and stood up. Then he tried to let go of the chair. PLOP! He landed on the floor. He kept trying to stand up for many days. Then one day, he let go of the chair and took a couple of steps before landing on the floor again. All around him he heard claps and cheers and shouts of joy. “Look, he took his first step. What a special moment!” his father said. His parents had appreciated his efforts. The baby boy was so happy and motivated. He kept trying harder and harder till he could stand up and run on his own.
Fast-forward a couple of years. He was now a little boy. His mom told him to sit at his desk and she gave him a pencil and paper. She asked him to write some strange shape she kept calling “A.” He was having a hard time holding on to the pencil and when he tried to write, the pencil kept slipping from his fingers. He managed to draw something on the paper.
But all he heard now was, “Why can’t you hold the pencil like I showed you? Can’t you write neatly? I told you to write the letter A and all you have managed to do is scribble on the paper. When will you ever learn to write?”
The boy was sad. He could not understand why his parents, who earlier got so excited when he tried to walk or talk or do things on his own, were now so upset at his first attempts in holding a pen and writing.
He thought, “But I’m trying my best. Why are they so angry with me? I’m no good. I’m bad. I don’t want to ever write again.”
Then every time his mom asked him to write, he would throw a tantrum and start to cry. And it took him many years to learn to write, but even today he doesn’t like to write.
A few years went by. The boy, who was now 8 years old, liked playing football and he joined his school’s football team. One day, they played a match against a rival school team. There were just a few minutes left in the game and the score was tied 1-1. He was near the goal. His teammate kicked the ball to him. But before he could run to the ball and kick it, a boy from the other team took the ball away from him and drove it toward the other goal. The other team scored, and the boy’s team lost 1-2! His teammates were mad.
They surrounded the boy and started yelling, “We lost because of you. Loser! You are so clumsy. You don’t even know how to kick the ball!”
They went on and on.
Even after his teammates left, as he sat alone on the bench at the corner of the football field, completely dejected, these words kept echoing in his ears — because of you, loser, clumsy…As he sat there with tears running down his cheeks, he felt a hand on his shoulder, a gentle soothing hand. He turned to look. It was his coach.
He came and sat next to the boy and said, “I saw what happened. You must be feeling terrible.” The boy nodded. The coach continued, “I know you missed the ball and now everyone is blaming you for the loss. That must be so hard. You know what, we all make mistakes and that’s okay. We are all still learning. I noticed how you blocked the ball and stopped the other team from scoring a goal on the previous attempt. That was a spectacular play. So, I have complete confidence in you, that you will be a great contributor to your team. All you need to do is practice some more. Would you like to watch the match video? It will help you understand what you did wrong and what you need to do to improve your skills.”
The boy’s face lit up as he nodded, “Yes!”
He went home with uplifted spirits. As he walked in, his dad said, “Son, you look so happy. You must have won! Give me a high five.”
The boy replied, “No, Dad, we lost because I missed a kick. But my coach told me that I played well in the rest of the game. He said he was confident I will be a good football player if I practice hard.”
His dad responded, “Come here, son, give me a hug. You have learnt a valuable lesson today. It isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about trying hard and improving every day.”
His mom, who was listening, piped in, “Love you, son. Give me a high five! You did win today after all.”
Thereafter, every day the boy would stay back after school to practice playing football. And he got better and better at it. He went on to help his team win many games and became a role model and mentor for other young football players. He even won a college football scholarship.
A simple act of empathy and compassion by his coach and encouragement from his parents helped the boy bounce back. The confidence he gained in football spilled over to his academics and other areas of his life. His performance in school improved.
He was willing to take on challenges and try new things without letting the fear of failure bother him. He knew that the only way to learn and grow was by making mistakes and failing now and then. He just needed someone to trust in him and believe in him, someone to listen to him and comfort him in times of trouble. Knowing that his coach and his parents cared, it helped the boy build resilience; it gave him the confidence to keep trying, even in the face of failure. He felt secure and he thrived knowing he had people around him who cared.
Quick tips to build resilience in your child
Resilience is the ability to learn from mistakes, the ability to bounce back from failures. It gives your child the confidence to take risks, face challenges and try something new without the fear of failure. This boosts your child’s self-esteem and self-confidence, key skills to thrive and be successful in school, career and life.
Here’s what you as a parent can do to help build resilience in your child:
- Acknowledge and appreciate the effort put in by your child.
- Remind yourself and your child that more than the outcome or result, it is the effort that goes into any activity or task that is important.
- Don’t expect perfection. Allow your child to make mistakes or even fail. Instead of putting him down, encourage him to take responsibility and learn from these mistakes or failures. Motivate him to keep trying and practicing, as this will help him improve and grow.
- Avoid comparisons with others, as this will only hurt your child’s self-esteem. Encourage him to compete against himself and keep improving.
- Encourage your child to get out of his comfort zone and take on challenges or try something new. Encourage him to explore and experiment. Appreciate his patience, persistence and courage. There will be many ups and downs on the way. Don’t worry about the missteps and failures. View them as a stepping-stone to growth and success.
- Listen with empathy. When your child is upset or dejected, showing you understand how he feels and assuring him you are there to support him as needed will make him feel accepted, even in the face of failure.
About the author:
Written by Nalina Ramalakshmi on February 4, 2021.
Nalina Ramalakshmi is the founder and editor-in-chief of ParentCircle.
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