On Saturday, our kids and a couple of others from their 4-H club attended our state 4-H robotics competition for the first time. They had been preparing for this competition for a couple of months, programming their Lego EV3 robots to perform a series of designated tasks. After programming the robots to perform each individual task, the trick was to link the programs and get the robots to perform the tasks consecutively on a large table without human intervention.
Sound difficult? It was. Not so much to reach that goal, which they did, but to get the robots to perform consistently. They might have several successful practice runs and then a fail, for no apparent reason—an imperfection in the table surface, a slight misplacement of the robot at the beginning of the run—it was impossible to have a perfect run each time.
Fortunately, the competition was designed to account for these problems. Each team had three time slots on three different tables throughout the day, and during each time slot they had several opportunities to make a successful run.
Our kids’ team was feeling great when they had a run at the end of the afternoon in which they had to adjust their robot just once. As a rookie team, they didn’t think they would win any awards, but they were okay with that and satisfied that their hard work had shown itself in a solid run.
What they were not okay with was the amount of help that some other teams received from their adult coaches. As they observed other teams’ runs, it seemed that the adults had done the programing and were working out solutions to any problems that cropped up, rather than the children on the team.
In contrast, our team’s coach was strictly hands-off before and during the competition. He wanted the kids to create the programs themselves and learn from the experience through trial and error, and they certainly did—for many hours over the course of several months.
In defense of helicopter coaches (and parents) everywhere, I understand the temptation to intervene and “fix” things for our kids. Sometimes, it’s just easier and more efficient to do things ourselves. But in the long run, we short-change our kids if we don’t allow them to experiment and even fail before ultimately achieving success. How will they ever learn from their mistakes if we don’t let them make any?
Once my husband and I have done our best to teach a certain task or responsibility, I’ve had to learn to trust my kids to do it on their own, everything from cooking their own hot breakfast to mowing the lawn. With my littlest, I then have to refrain from re-doing it, so I don’t undo the sense of accomplishment he gained from doing it “all by myself.”
In the course of preparing for the robotics competition, my two oldest were definitely treated to the laissez-faire approach. In the end, their performance reflected their own hard work.
When the winners were announced, my kids’ team felt that some of the results were justified, but others, not so much. And whether or not they themselves walked away with a trophy, they felt that some of the results just didn’t seem fair to other deserving teams in the competition.
So, our kids left that day with an adult lesson learned. Circumstances are not always fair, but that’s not what matters to God. In many cases, we need to let those situations go.
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. – Ecclesiastes 9:11
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee. – Psalm 25:21
Have you experienced any unfair situations lately? How have you handled them? I look forward to your thoughts and comments.