Tuesday, December 21, 2010

There's No Crying in Hot Potato!

Is it me, or are kids just melting down over the smallest things these days? I feel old even asking that question, but I remember a time when you couldn't do something and mom or dad said something to the effect of "get back out there and try again" and that's exactly what you did. I was recently at C's basketball practice and a kid there was having trouble dribbling the ball, and started crying. And I don't mean just a couple of tears, I mean a full out case of the hooty puckers! Granted, every kid is different, but I have to say, C has never played this sport before, couldn't dribble, and just kept on trying. I think he knew though that if he started melting over that, there wouldn't be coddling waiting for him on the sidelines either. Then again, he's not really what I'd call a "melter" either. Perhaps it's a chicken/egg discussion...does the parent coddling cause the child melting or vice versa? Before you think I'm a total ice queen, yes, kids need love, support, etc...but I don't think we need to swing it to the point of encouraging inappropriate behavior and the inability to foster independence. So back to Mr. Hooty Puckers...he spent the next 15 minutes of a 60 minute practice on the sidelines with dad just carrying on. And no, this is not a special needs child, an autistic child, etc. Is this how "teacup children" and "helicopter parents" are made? Well, now that you probably think I'm one big meanie, I remember when you played sports as a kid and they actually kept score, and you learned how to win and lose gracefully...none of this "no score" crap.

So, I was in charge of coming up with a game for C's class party yesterday and I refuse to buy into this "no winner" mentality. I think if done right, you can play a game where there is a winner AND kids can have fun along the way. After seeing another mom facilitate a bingo game and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey that ended with sobbing and alligator tears at the fall party, I knew I'd have to get ahead of these little munchkins. I was ready! I wanted something simple with very little prep and hot potato seemed like a good pick. To fit the theme I used a stuffed animal penguin and called it "Chilly Chilly Penguin" and it's the same concept as HP, but the CCP is just too cold to hold. I got the kids in a circle on the classroom rug and asked who could tell the class how to play HP. One little girl did a great job of it. Then I explained we'd have a CCP instead of a HP. So far so good. And then I said..."there's no crying in CCP!" The kids giggled, etc. and I restated it just for dramatic effect with them. The teacher whispered it would be a miracle if J did not have a meltdown. I quickly explained someone would leave the circle each time, they would see me for a small prize for playing as a good sport, and then they would be my DJ for one round, and there would be a bigger prize for the winner.

So, the rules and expectations were set and it was time to put the game in motion. And you know what? It went BEAUTIFULLY! We had 19 eager little people who played nicely, learned how to handle the disappointment of being eliminated and the winner was proud that he won and had a different prize as a winner (each eliminated child received a Christmas pencil, the winner received a Crayola Color Wonder maze and puzzle pack). Carefully crafted, I think we can teach kids that we can play games, keep score, and still have a good time. And you know what? Even J was all smiles and not one tear or meltdown over his elimation and never once did I hear "he got a cool prize and I only got a pencil." Now that's a party!

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