We have two supermarkets in town. I like both and so shop at both of them. Unless my 9-year-old son is with me that is. If he is, then let's just say one of the two has a claw machine in the entrance, the other doesn't.
I used to avoid that one, because what parent wants to rummage around for a gold coin or two and then watch while their child tries, and fails, to win a much-admired plush toy from a machine that seems geared to deliver a disappointing outcome every time?
Recently though, I have happily stood there and done just that.
Every time he tries and fails to win that coveted teddy, he learns resilience. He learns sometimes you don't have an extra coin and even though that plush prize is just a tempting 6cm from the prize shoot, you have to walk away empty-handed. He learns that sometimes you win, and sometimes you don't. Most importantly of all, he learns that when he doesn't win, I am not going to fix it for him.
It might sound mean, saying I am happy to watch him fail, but I would rather he learned what failure is when success means a plush toy, not later in life when it means something much bigger or greater.
I'm not saying he won't fail at other things too (to start with, he has my level of co-ordination when it comes to sports, so he's never going to be an All Black or even picked first for lunchtime school games of cricket), but I believe the coping skills he gets every time he leaves that supermarket without a plush toy benefit him in the long term.
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I saw a parent recently who clearly wouldn't agree. My daughter and I were at one of those arcade-type places where there are claw machines aplenty. A father watched his son try, and fail, on one of the claw machines. After three attempts, and plenty of tears, the father asked a staff member to unlock the machine and sell him the toy. When the staff member declined, the father had a tantrum to match his son's.
I couldn't help but wonder by the father's reaction if his parents had also tried to run in front of him removing all obstacles in his path when he was young, because he clearly didn't know how to deal with hearing the word no.
As parents, it can be really tempting to treat our role as a game of curling - that sport where players slide stones on ice. In that sport, there are sweepers, whose job is to run in front of the stone, sweeping the ice - making the stone travel as desired. In parenting, that is the equivalent of always making sure your child wins at games of snap, helping them with their homework to the point of making the life-size model of Sky City out of dried pasta yourself when the child plays Roblox, or asking the staff to sell you the plush toy from the claw machine.
So if you see me at the supermarket, don't be surprised to see me standing by the claw machine, while the ice-cream melts in my bags and my hot chicken gets cold. And spare a thought for me, because while my son is learning resilience, I am also learning a valuable lesson - patience.