Experiencing Natural Consequence:

This weekend I had two very different opportunities to engage with different youth in our community.  The first occurred as I was doing a “ride along” with the local police.  As a Director on the Police Board I had been invited to get a first hand experience, at the street level, of policing in our small community.  I chose to” ride along” on a Friday night and experience the busyness of bar closing.

  I was most impressed with how the young police officer I was riding with dealt with both the youth who had been drinking and some of the older folks who were making their ways home after the bars closed.  I recognized a number of the youth as students I had known during my tenure as the principal of the local high school and some of the more inebriated ones were youth I knew well.

The following morning I had the opportunity to work as the announcer at the local swim meet.  This is a job I always look forward to, and as a former swim club parent whose kids greatly benefited from the swim club experience, it was a way that I could give back to a program which was really good for my family.

On the deck of the local pool I really enjoyed watching a very different view of local youth compared to the previous evening.  One of the first events was the breaststroke and I knew from experience that the younger swimmers really struggled with getting this stroke right and inevitably a number would be disqualified (D.Q’d.)  Sure enough, as I watched a young girl (probably 7-8 years old) was taken aside by a stroke and turn official and told that she was D.Q’d.  As the young swimmer valiantly fought back tears the official patiently explained to her what she had done wrong.  After the stroke and turn official left the tears flowed and both the young swimmers parent and coach consoled her telling her how proud they were of her swim and how they were going to help her fix her stroke so that at the next meet she wouldn’t be D.Q’d again.

In the past I have not been a huge fan of disqualifying young swimmers and indeed had retired from being a stroke and turn official, in my swim club days for this very reason.   However as I reflected back on the previous evenings experience a thought occurred to me.  I wondered what the implications were, of our young swimmers experience.  Here she was, having some adults say “no” to her, her swim while good, just wasn’t quite good enough.  She was challenged to try a little harder, to improve and go at it again before she would succeed.  She was learning, in a wonderful and supportive environment the law of natural consequence.  Her stroke was wrong.  She had tried hard but until she actually got it right, that didn’t count.  Several adults were there to help her “do it right.”  They were not making excuses for her, they were helping her deal with performance disappointment in a positive way, the lesson she hopefully learned was that if she would try harder and preserver she would succeed. 

As I watched the young coaches, all kids who had experienced the same natural consequences as our young swimmer, I was struck by what Great Kids they had become.  On the other hand I reflected back on the youth I had witnessed drunkenly interacting with the Police earlier that morning.  Knowing them, I knew that many had not had experienced the kinds of natural consequences our young swimmers have.  What a shame.