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A Teachable Moment from the Olympics

Updated on June 30, 2012

Do you like the Olympics?

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The Olympics

Our family is very excited about the Olympics this summer. We are huge fans of this event, and every two years we stop everything to soak up everything to go along with the athletes and all of the sports. It is such a wonderful family experience for us to cheer for our favorites, rejoice with their wins, and cry with their losses. It helps us bond as a family and, as I have recently discovered, helped teach our children some valuable life lessons.

With the Olympics coming up this summer, we have been watching the qualification trials as they come up on TV. We each have our favorite sports, like everyone else, but watching the athletes qualify has been fun.

The other night, we were watching the swimming trials. As the camera panned wide to show the whole pool, my son asked why there were people standing at the end of the pool watching the swimmers, like in the photo below:


The lesson begins.....

I answered by saying that the people on the right were judges, standing there to make sure that none of the swimmers were cheating.

"How would the swimmers cheat?"

"By using drugs to make them swim faster. The judges are there to make sure everyone follows the rules."

"What would happen if they cheat?"

"The athlete would get kicked out of the race."

My son replied with, "So if they do not follow the rules, they get kicked out?"


The conversation that followed was one of those that I hope will stick with my children for a long time.....

My son asked why anyone would want to cheat. Why would anyone want to get kicked out?

I explained that sometimes people work so hard at a dream and want it so bad, that they might lose sight of the ultimate goal - to become a better person. They think that they need to cut corners and cheat so that they come out on top. Instead of being proud of everything that they have accomplished, and rejoicing in how far they have come (they made it to the Olympic trials!!!!), they only think about winning and that clouds their judgement. Sometimes that leads to cheating, or cutting corners, because they think that is that only way that they will be able to win.

The judges are there to make sure that everyone gets a fair chance and no one hurts anyone else. I got a little philosophical at this point and explained that the swimmers are like people, going through life, and God is like the judges, not being judgmental, but watching over us. God is there to help us do the right thing and is there to watch over us.

I also explained that if an athlete is caught cheating, they usually get disqualified. That athlete may have worked for years, or even decades, to get to the Olympic trials. If they are caught doing anything improper, all of that time and hard work is gone in the blink of an eye. They cannot get a do-over. The integrity that they have built up over the years is lost because of one silly action.

Integrity is defined in the dictionary as honesty or sincerity; uprightness. To have integrity, you need to be honest. If you lie, cheat, or steal, you do not have any integrity. People start to avoid you, they do not trust what you say, and do not believe in what you do. They lose respect for you. I explained that this is not the type of person they want to be in life. If you lose people's respect, no one will want to be your friend.

If the athlete cheats, people no longer trust them. They lose the respect of their fellow athletes, their family, and all of the people who believed in them. They may also lose sponsorships and jobs, thus losing their income. If they have a family depending on them for money, then they have let them down as well. The people around the athlete suffer because of their actions.

We talked about having dreams. We talked about how much hard work it takes to get where you would like to be in life. I explained that, in life, you have to be an honest person. You have to work hard. And, you have to do everything by the rules. There are no cutting corners in life. As with the athletes in the Olympics, if you cut corners, things do tend to fall apart.

Now, this was not all lecture on my part. This is a summary of a very long question and answer we had about this throughout the whole event (the kids were very curious about athletes cheating), but my son was amazed that, after all of that work, an athlete would risk getting kicked out just to try to cheat. I assured him that most athletes take their responsibilities seriously and work hard and do not cheat. There are a few bad apples in every bunch, but for the most part, athletes know better.

As we were having this conversation, my heart was leaping for joy, because teachable moments do not always come up when you need them, or want them, but this one was good. Everyone was home, we were all able to sit and chat, no one was running out the door to an activity, etc... It was a nice quiet moment at home. It was perfectly handed to us.

Sticky Situations

We have a set of books called Sticky Situations. We bought these a long time ago and have pulled them out every so often before bed. Each page in these books lists a "sticky situation" in life, like what to do if you see someone being bullied, what to do if you see someone cheating, getting hurt, etc..... After it tells you the story, it gives you some possible solution scenarios. The goal is that you will take this situation, read it, and then, with your child(ren), talk about what is the right scenario based on your values. They do have Bible passages to go along with all of these scenarios, which we link to God, and what he expects us to do in life.

After the Olympic conversation, we took out our book and picked a page and continued our conversation about honesty and doing the right thing.

At the end of the day...

Going to bed that night, I thanked God for giving my family a chance to learn something about being a good person that day. It overwhelms me sometimes to think about all that we are responsible for teaching our children before they go out into the world. Receiving this gift of a teachable moment was nice. I pray that they keep this conversation close to their heart in days to come, as well as in their future life. It was an important one, at least in my opinion.

Amazing what happens when you watch the Olympics!


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    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 5 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thanks for showing parents how to make the connection between what we see on TV and their children's own daily lives and choices. Voted up and useful.