Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Beware the Pyrrhic Victory

"At least is was a victory and at least we won."
~ Bobby Moore


A Pyrrhic victory is a type of win that actually inflicts so much destruction on the victorious side that it is basically tantamount to defeat. While the side that wins a Pyrrhic victory is considered ultimately victorious, the tolls suffered work to negate the feeling of actual achievement.

This is also called a “hollow victory”.

Pyrrhic victories are not limited to war. They occur in many other areas of life.

For example, a plaintiff might win his civil suit against a defendant, but his legal costs in getting the win outweigh the amount he was awarded at trial.

Parents need to use long term thinking and goal planning to avoid causing children to chase pyrrhic victories.

Let me explain:

When parents put too much pressure on their children to accomplish specific goals, it might cause the child to use improper methods in order to achieve these goals.

So if the parent is pressuring the child to get high marks in school, the child can either study more, or they can turn to cheating. A child getting good grades due to cheating would be a pyrrhic victory. It looks as if the child is succeeding, but the child doesn’t know the material.

The child is just fooling themselves and others.

It doesn’t help the child become better, if anything, the child is now more likely to cheat next time.

When the child eventually gets caught cheating, the parents will scold him or her, but the onus here is really on the parents. When the bar is set too high for children, can a child really be blamed when they seek alternative ways to reach too high a goal?

Prior to trial, a plaintiff needs to sit down and calculate how much he will need to spend on fees and how much he is likely to collect. He does this on order to see if litigation is worth it for him. Likewise parents need to sit down and calculate where they set the bar for their child. Too low and the child is not motivated enough, too high and the child might turn to improper methods for reaching the bar.

"You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink." means that we can give someone the opportunity but you can’t force them to take it.

Just make sure you are actually giving an opportunity for success and not baiting your child to take the forbidden fruit.

Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.  
You can email Yisroel at
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