My younger daughter's house league hockey team lost for the first time this season on Sunday. The conditions were less than ideal. It was 63 degrees, and they were playing on the outdoor rink, which quickly went from a sheet of ice to a puddle of water while they were playing their game. The referees weren't on their side either. But the truth is that they didn't play particularly well.
When my daughter's other hockey team lost the weekend before, my daughter was not happy. She had a pretty poor attitude about the whole thing, which led me to write this post last week.
I fully expected for her to come out of the locker room steamed. I expected her to want to blame everything from the ice to the referees. I fully expected to have to have another conversation about losing gracefully. Except that's not what happened.
While she didn't walk out of the locker room with a smile on her face, she did come out with a "we'll get them next time" attitude. She did make a few comments about how awful the ice was and how unfairly the referees had called the game. But she wasn't in tears. She wasn't angry with the situation.
Then she dropped the real bombshell. "I made a speech in the locker room," she said.
"What did you say?" I asked.
"I just told everyone we were still in first place, and we just needed to put it behind us and play as a team in the next game."
Whoa. Is this the same kid that I had to pull out of the locker room and lecture the bad attitude out of after the last loss? Is this the same girl who takes every loss as a personal affront?
You see, the week before, we had had a long "talk" about how to be a leader in the locker room, about how to lose gracefully, about how to encourage our teammates even when we lose. I honestly thought everything I said was going in one ear and out the other.
But the truth is that she was listening. She was absorbing. She was watching me. And God was working on her heart.
Our kids are paying attention to us whether we think they are or not. They are weighing what we say to see if it makes sense and if we truly believe what we're saying. They're watching and listening to see if we are backing up our words with actions.
This isn't the first conversation we've had about losing well. But it's the first one that has resulted in an attitude change for the next loss. It's the first one that has borne any results in my daughter's actions.
However, all those other conversations we had about losing with grace add up. When we consistently say the same thing to our kids, when we teach the same lesson over and over and over again, it does sink in. All that time spent talking to our kids and showing them how to approach a situation differently matters. All that time spent praying for our kids to "get it" is effective.
Because eventually they will get it. Eventually their hearts and attitudes will begin to change. And eventually they will grow into the young men and women God created them to be.
It won't always be easy. It won't always be quick. But our kids are listening, so we need to keep talking.