Sunday, March 19, 2006

Communication problems

Yesterday was the big karate tournament of the year, Grandmaster Byrne's 33rd annual All Tang Soo Do Tournament in Lynnfield, MA. My 4 kids and I all competed, though I spent most of the day judging, and it was a great and successful event. But there was an interesting occurrence after my youngest was finished.

Ben was one of the two 7-year old red belts competing, so he was head-to-head with a little girl in all three of the events, breaking, forms and sparring. In each case, he finished first and she was 2nd. So they finished up and got their medals.

And about 15 minutes later, we were standing around, watching a new group compete in that ring, when a woman came up and spoke to Ben. She reached down, shook his hand, and said, "Congratulations. You did a very good job. But it wasn't nice of you to call my daughter a 'loser.' You made her feel bad, and she's crying in the other room."

We were stunned, and could tell that he was too. I started to apologize, and started to pull him through the crowd, telling him that we were going to go talk to her and apologize. But I had no idea where the comment had come from - the kids don't ever use that term, he doesn't ever call anyone names. It was completely out of the blue and out of character. So as we followed her mother towards the door, I looked at him and asked him what he'd said, and why he'd done it. And he told me that "I told her she was a good loser." At which point I started laughing...

You see, in the car, on the way to the tournament, we'd had a behavior discussion. I knew that a couple of them were going to do well, and I knew that one of them wasn't, just because of his age, and the age and levels of kids he'd be competing against. So we'd talked about how important it was to be a good loser, and how it was even more important to be a good and gracious winner. So when he told me what he'd actually said, I understood what had happened - he'd been complimenting her!

Obviously, not a compliment that anyone wants to receive, but sometimes the subtleties are lost on seven year olds...

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