Friday, April 29, 2011

Why I don't like Cooperative Games

No one likes to lose, fail or experience disappointment.  These experiences however, are inevitable in life, necessary for growth and development, the seed from which future successes are born.  The key though, is for the person who is experiencing such to do so in a way that moves them forward.

When I was little I had a poster in my room.  It was Snoopy and Woodstock playing tennis and the caption said "It doesn't matter if you win or lose.  It's how you play the game."  Of course I think Woodstock was beating Snoopy over the head with a tennis racket...but that isn't the point. 

The point is that the experience in and of itself is what matters.  Although winning feels better than losing and success is certainly more desirable than failure the ability to engage in the process, try your best and accept the outcome, regardless of preference, want or need is what dictates the ability to be authentic and present in life. 

What does this have to do with my feelings around cooperative games?  While I understand that "cooperative games" are meant to teach cooperation, team building, problem solving etc, they don't necessarily teach children how to lose (or win for that matter) and let's face it, in our society someone always loses.

Today was Smile Mile at my 8 year old's school.  Last year, he ran a respectable 10 minute mile with me by his side.  The goal this year:  beat last year's time.  Unfortunately I couldn't run with him (for obvious reasons) and he did not beat his time, and according to him, even worse..."I didn't smile".  Honestly, I think he went around the track 1 extra time, but I'm not going to push the issue.  For those of you who don't know my son, he doesn't take losing fact he hates it.  He doesn't become irate and lash out, he turns it inwards and wallows in disappointment.

All I could do was give him a hug and tell him that everybody has bad days...even if we train really hard for something.  I told him we would take him to the track and time him again and we would work really hard so he could beat the 10 minute time next year.  I also told him that it is okay to be disappointed and to allow himself to feel it (mindfulness), but he also needs to know that life will go on and he will be okay.

By the time he got home tonight, he was pretty much over it.  And I am proud of him for handling it so well.

You see, it doesn't really matter IF you win or lose, what matters is HOW you win or lose.  I believe cooperative games in the absence of competitive games early on fails to teach children this important skill.  The earlier a child learns that not everyone gets a chair in musical chairs, or that someone HAS to be the goose, the more equipped they will be to handle life's bigger disappointments in the coming a broken foot the week before you are suppose to run the Broad St 10 miler or the look on your child's face when they realize they haven't reached their goal.

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