Thanks for the Tip.

At Dylan’s most recent cross country meet, he had a difficult race. He had a cold, and walked much of the trail.

“I just feel sick,” he said. “I don’t think I should have been running today.”

Another student’s dad suggested gently to Dylan that he could work on his pacing. He said it with no malice, and only mentioned it because Dylan had been complaining about the tough race.

The dad said, “It might be easier if you pace yourself throughout the race.”

“I do pace myself,” Dylan said, as if the other parent were an opponent on the other side of a debate table.

Then Dylan went into a three-minute exposé on why that parent was probably wrong. It’s a behavior I’ve seen many times before – but this time, it wasn’t aimed at me. I’d love to quote here what Dylan said in response, but my jaw was dropping to the ground and I couldn’t concentrate on what he was saying.

What I heard went something like this:  I already know everything there is to know about running, and I usually do everything right but today I was just so sick that I couldn’t possibly do what I knew I needed to do. But I don’t want to hear what you have to say, or even think about running right now, because there isn’t anything you can tell me that I don’t already know.

I don’t know if Dylan’s behavior is normal for a teenager, since he is my first teenager. It’s quite obvious to me that he is trying not to get down on himself, and is justifying his behavior with the excuse that he knows what to do, but is sometimes unable to do it because (insert excuse here).

But it came across as arrogance. Dylan sounded like a know-it-all who wasn’t able to graciously accept advice – from a stranger or from a friend. His spiel was defiant and pushy and rude – although his words were gentle enough. Dylan just kept blabbering about why he did what he did.

The dad tried to explain his point further – which was interesting. Then Dylan drove the dad into the ground with more reasons why Dylan already knew what to do. There wasn’t even an acknowledgement of the man’s attempt at kindness.

I know that it’s not easy to accept criticism, especially after you’ve just come in 16th in a race. But as an adult, I realize that sometimes it’s easier to listen first, think later, and consider what’s been said – than it is to defend yourself against all attacks, no matter how small, while attempting to be perfect at all times.

So after we left, I suggested to Dylan that it might be best, when someone offers him advice, to just say, “Thanks for the tip,” and move on with his life.

Of course, mine was just another suggestion for Dylan to follow. And if I know Dylan, he doesn’t even remember that any of this happened.

Next time he defends himself instead of graciously accepting criticism, I hope to be far, far away.


  1. Kirsten says:

    And I deleted all the stuff about his first few races – the one where he hadn’t eaten for 5 hours prior, the one where he forgot his water, the one where he got the leg cramp… My issue is how to teach him that he’ll never know all there is to know! He is currently sulking because (again) he knows something else I supposedly don’t have a clue about – so now is not the best time… but I will share your comments whenever he’s open to learning again! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Glenn Sheay says:

    Oh boy! Where shall I start. If you know everything about running, you should know that you can’t run a race when you are sick. When I had a bad race, it made me mad and I wouldn’t want advice from anyone, except my coach. Dylan was probably mad at himself. If you have a bad race, there’s no one to blame but yourself. Also, running is a sport where you are constantly learning. Learning how to pace yourself in a race or a workout. Learning what to eat before a race, how much to sleep before a race. You never really know all there is to know about running.

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