Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lessons on the Soccer Field

In a recent conversation, I mentioned that my son is adopted from Korea.  A mom asked if we ever experienced prejudice.  The happy answer is there were only a couple incidents. By and large he was welcomed by schools, kids, parents and church.  But she asked how I handled the things that did happen.

The answer is simple: I took 2 steps backwards.  I often recommend this method when disciplining children but also any time you are going to react emotionally; step back, calm down and wait for a good response.

One lovely summer evening, our travel soccer team played a new opponent.  My son, Kevin, loved soccer and was very fast.  Along with his teammates, we were routing the other team.  Soon I started hearing things like: “there goes the Chink”, “Hey Chink boy”, “oh aren’t we all scared by the Chink”.  It went on and on.  No coach stopped it. This had never happened before and I was appalled and angry.

But I just sat there.  I wanted to jump up and stop the game but I knew that “interfering soccer moms” are rarely listened to and seen only as a pain in the neck.  My friends were watching me – I knew they thought I should react. But I continued to sit there.

After the game, Kevin and his teammates ran over and asked if I heard the slurs. I said yes but that the opponent team “was close, but no cigar”.  When they all looked at me puzzled, I explained that “Chink” was a derogatory word for a Chinese person, but Kevin was Korean so they got it all wrong.  The kids started laughing and in a move, I will never forget, they started dancing around Kevin, chanting a kind of rap: “Close, but no cigar; close, but no cigar”.  The tension was immediately over.

Two weeks later we played the same team.  Before the game I approached our coach and told him that if the same thing happened, I would not sit still, but would stop the game and remove Kevin from the field.  Our coach talked to their coach and whatever else they did; there were no more racial slurs.

Everyone learned so much.  Kevin continued to own and be proud of being Korean.  His friends learned that prejudice is often ignorant, mindless and just not true.  The coaches learned to take action (maybe late, but they would have learned nothing if I had embarrassed them by stopping the first game).  And I learned that supporting my son can sometimes best be done by looking at the whole picture – taking 2 steps backward and giving myself the gift of thinking.

The 2 steps backward rule works well in discipline too.  Wait until you are calm and have a plan.  Only then should you impose a consequence – I promise your children will remember what you are talking about and you will look much more like a leader to be listened to!!!!

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