The Easter No Kids or Adults Cried
Warning: If you are someone who feels as though our society is too soft, and that we have created a generation of children who cannot cope with disappointment, then you should stop reading right about NOW. Instead, please first read this brief article, written all the way back in 1987, by Alfie Kohn,“The Case Against Competition” and then read his book, No Contest. Kohn’s essential premise, supported through research, is that competition is not an inevitable part of human nature, and that competition does not motivate us to do our best.
Additional Note: Even if you do not celebrate the Easter holiday, the below is certainly analogous to other classroom and family situations and worthy of your reflection.
Easter… I am sure when you think of this holiday, images of spring flowers, bunnies, ham, and spring all come to mind. As well does the crushing blow from your 13 year-old cousin as he or she elbows your 4 year-old self out of the way to get a plastic egg filled with what is most likely two jelly beans, or one penny. As a parent, this type of Easter competition starts out with good intentions and ends with a genuine sense of anger, resentment, and exasperation….The kids are sad as well!
As an educator, I am well aware of how to thoughtfully create situations whereby students can work collaboratively to identify issues, define possible solutions, and solve problems. This type of work ultimately, and organically, develops a sense of community and a depth of empathy in students. So, when my own kids are crying and distraught over unhealthy and unnecessary competition, I am constantly trying to think of ways to stop it. To be clear, this is not to have them avoid any sense of discomfort or loss; rather, it is to get them to see how working together is, ultimately, more effective and fulfilling than working alone.
At our recent Easter celebration, my sister-in-law anticipated that problems could develop from our regularly planned egg hunt. She decided to ask one of her sons what should be done to make the hunt enjoyable for all the cousins (9-4 years old). He simply looked at her and said, “Just put our names on the eggs.” To him it was such an obvious solution and one he knew would work. While this marked a move away from how things were typically done, the adults all agreed that we should give it a try.
As is often the case when working with children, the best idea to elevate our Easter Egg Hunt did not come from any of the adults; it came from one of the children. All the adults had to do was listen, follow through, and not let their own past experiences dictate the experiences of their children. This is not always easy!
A Collaborative Easter Egg Hunt
The idea is simple:
- Take all of the easter eggs, and label each with the initials of each child on a designated amount of eggs
- Hide the eggs
- Let the children hunt
- During the hunt, each child only takes eggs with his or her initials on it
As the hunt unfolded, here is what happened:
When the children found an egg with their initials on it, they were super excited and put said egg their baskets.
As they passed the eggs of another, they would happily shout out phrases like, “William! Your egg is over here! Come and get it!”
The adults stayed out of the way. They sipped coffee. They talked to each other. They laughed with the kids. They did not referee the event. They did not break up fights. They did not apply ice packs to anyone.
As the hunt progressed, the natural human response of each child kicked in. They started to work together to find eggs. They were not put in a situation where they were supposed to “win” or “find the most eggs possible.” Cousins worked as partners. When they found the eggs of another, they would hold it up and yell for them to come and get it. They would wait for them and directly hand eggs to one another. They said please and thank you. They were genuinely excited to find their own egg, and equally as excited to find the egg of another.
It was real. It was kind. It was the way people should treat other people. And, it is what we as parents and teachers should encourage in our youth.
Children often have the best ideas.
Adults need to let go of their past experiences to help their own children grow and experience life.
Parents need to develop family traditions that involve collaboration, not unnecessary competition.
Teachers need to continue to create classroom experiences that allow children to develop cooperative learning strategies and empathy for others.
When we emphasize and develop collaboration over competition, our children display their natural tendencies and contribute to the development of empowered communities at home and school.
If you have any family tradition that inspire collaboration, please share below.
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