So here's my two cents on the hot topic at the moment: The Voice Kids, and the children who miss out.
I was prepared to dislike this show, I was worried it would exploit children for entertainment purposes.
I watched the video of the 12 year old being rejected, saw her sobbing and tears came to my eyes. Oh no, the poor child, I thought, how heart-breaking.
But then I went to work.
And at work this week, I sat with kids who had been abused. I listened to children who had dealt with death and other great loss. I talked with kids who were living with disability.
And I woke up and got a little perspective.
Missing out on progressing through a national singing show is disappointing.
That's "disappointing" Kirrilie, not "heart-breaking".
If, as a society of parents, we start to think children can't survive disappointments and must be protected from them, then I see at least two problems.
- We are going to deny children the chance to learn, in a loving and caring environment, to cope with difficult feelings. That's not good for them as adults and it's certainly not good for society as a whole.
- We are going to be fighting a lot of battles on a lot of fronts all of the time. Don't want children to be disappointed? I hope you can read their mind on every birthday, have endless amounts of money, can magically endow them with athletic ability, academic skills and the perfect friends in every situation. I see some exhausted parents in the making!
Sure, her disappointment was broadcast nationally. Does that make it worse for her? Not necessarily. The key here is that she hasn't been humiliated, she has been shown to have done well but not quite well enough. This doesn't have to be a trauma or a tragedy - provided her parents and carers show her that.
Has she been exploited? According to the dictionary, this means "being used up unfairly or underhandedly". So no, not in this situation. The children understood what could happen, and the process was fair and transparent. There is nothing to stop these children from trying again, the cost has been minimal (I assume) and they haven't lost a great deal. Exploited is a strong word for voluntarily singing on TV.
This show is a great opportunity for families watching at home to show children that not everyone succeeds at every hurdle, every time. It's an opportunity for us to show our children they can survive disappointment.
My suggestion is to watch it with our children and use it as a conversation starter. Ask our kids, "how do you think she is feeling?", "Have you felt like that before?", "Did you know that I was disappointed a bit like that last year when.....", "How could she help herself feel better?", "What could you do in that situation?" and bingo, you have a learning opportunity which you can't buy.
Thank goodness for perspective. Shame it took the real suffering of real children for me to get it.