Why Being Left Out Can Be a Good Thing for Kids

Why being left out can be a good thing
Why being left out can be a good thing

A few weeks ago, my son took his little sister to the annual father/daughter dance at her school. It just happened to work out for him to take her, but I was prepared to occupy my daughter with alternative activities had she not been able to go. I wrote a blog post about the experience. And last year I wrote a post about how my other daughter didn't attend the dance. I got comments on both posts from people who were shocked and disappointed that a school would hold an event like a "father/daughter dance" in this day and age, knowing that some people would be left out because there are so many complicated families. In fact, it seemed to be the general consensus. But I have to disagree.

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Why should a school stop holding events like father/daughter dances? It's a heart-warming tradition. You should've seen all the fathers lined up to get in the school. Dressed in suits and ties, they held their daughter's hands, smiled from ear to ear, proud as can be, and snapped dozens of pictures to remember the night. The little girls looked up at their dads, seeing their heroes who had taken time out of their schedules to shower time and affection on them. Why would you want to cancel that?

Because not all kids have a dad? That's ludicrous. Should they cancel it because maybe one girl's dad works nights so she wouldn't be able to attend? Should they cancel it because one girl's dad is in the military stationed overseas so she can't attend? Maybe they should cancel it because there's a dad who wants to attend, but he only has sons, no daughters. When did we become such a nation of whiny brats? Why do we think everything should revolve around us? Why are we so stinking adamant that no one ever gets hurt or offended? Why must everyone always be included? Why?

Remember the old days when you didn't have to invite the entire class to your birthday party? Or how about when the winning team got the trophies and the losing team only got a "good game, better luck next year"? Does anyone remember what real life, with its ups and DOWNS, its wins and LOSSES feels like? Does anyone remember how sometimes life isn't fair and sometimes you get hurt and sometimes you're disappointed? And most importantly, does anyone remember how to deal with disappointment, shrug it off, and move on? Disappointment does not equal the end of all life as we know it. It's a part of life.

So why is it that people work so hard to keep disappointment out of their child's world these days? I mean, don't get me wrong - I don't like to see my kids sad anymore than anyone else. But I think parents today really go out of their way to ensure their children never get hurt. Everyone must be included and everyone must experience fairness and happiness at all costs. When a child gets a poor grade on an assignment, instead of experiencing disappointment and learning the importance of studying and putting forth effort, mom gets on the phone and complains to the teacher how unfair she is. Instead of losing the football season and taking home the experience of playing, working together, and learning, along with the determination to "get 'em next year", kids take home trophies for being mediocre. And instead of feeling disappointment that you can't attend the father/daughter dance, the school should cancel it altogether so no one is left out. Heaven forbid anyone should have to simply feel the sting of being left out or disappointed, before getting over it and moving on. That's crazy talk.

No matter how hard you try to get rid of disappointment, it will always be present. And what favors are you doing your kids by trying to protect them from it instead of arming them with the tools to deal with it and move forward? There will come a time when your child will feel left out. Instead of demanding they be included, teach your child to enjoy their own company, to brainstorm alternate situations, and to simply say, "Well this sucks and I feel sad, but I know it's not the end of the world." There will come a time when your child doesn't win. Teach them that winning isn't everything, that losing gracefully is commendable, and that perseverance is a good thing.

Being left out isn't a tragedy. It's a chance to practice life skills that will equip your child with the ability to deal with life's hardships in a positive, healthy way. What do you think? Should schools cancel activities like father/daughter dances to avoid needlessly hurting some kids by leaving them out? Or do we make too big a deal out of stuff like this, trying to protect our kids from pain at all costs?

- By Dawn Damalas Meehan
Follow Dawn on Babble!

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