Parents, Stay Focused!
I am always amazed at parents’ attitude towards sports and activities with their children. The parents that seem the most concerned try to find something that lights a spark in their kids to keep them busy and engaged. They see the value in being involved, goal setting, and building up a skill set, a talent or at least trying.
But there are also the parents that say they have this same attitude, but when it comes game time or competition time, the line becomes blurred between who is really performing, the child or themselves. The parent on the sidelines, in the audience, or coaching seems to take every negative call or point as a personal assault on their character and feels they must rush to their defense. Notice I say they take it to heart, reacting emotionally more at a gut level than in the best interests of their child.
When this type of reaction happens, it sets such a wonderful example to children much likethe Bernstein bears books of how not to act. The following should be treated with respect, in this order; referees, coaches, and children. There is no fine line, it is a firm line. If a parent can’t withhold their temper, their profanity, for example, they should either refrain from coming to events or be banned from entrance to any. The behavior is an embarrassment to a child, and offsets the lesson of fair play and building self-esteem and learning how to have self-control.
As I have gotten older, I see this trend has continued but just like when my children played, it is the minority that are obnoxious. Most are like the parents in my family, thus making me so proud of them and their children. In our circle of family, we have children that are excelling in their age group in many fields. There is a wrestler, a gymnast, a swimmer; basketball player, football player, dancer, singer, and those are just the ones that come to mind. The age range is from 7 years old all the way to 17. In fact, the youngest one just started a tumbling class at age 2!
All these parents have one thing in common; they want to keep their children happy, healthy and learning about life through activities beyond academics. There isn't a desire to relive their youth through their children either. Thus the pressure is not there for their kids to perform at a bench mark their parents are placing over their heads. This lets the coach establish the bar, their peers, and with most of these children in our family, themselves. Confident children do that, set goals for themselves, because they are more certain they can reach them. They all seem to have a passion to thrive in what they invest time in so approach it accordingly. As Jack the swimmer told me, “Every time I dive in, I swim with everything I have regardless of what anyone else in the pool is doing.”
I believe all of them are gaining a maturity and self-esteem in the way they are spending their time, especially in the conditioning aspect. None of them seem to think they are invincible and they all seem to be okay with it. What a fantastic way to approach life as achild. Parents that push children beyond their limits break their spirits and then they are doomed to fail. This becomes an internal tape in their head, this negative thinking, that plays later in life. It will be a self-fulfilling prophesy for many.
When you see a child attempting a sport or other outside activity, whether they are the star or not, remember, everyone’s role is important, just like in a company. We all are interdependent and can make a contribution and learn off each other. Reinforce their efforts, not what they do but what they try to do and how they do it. Your words of encouragement can and will need be the fuel for the future. What you say may play on their internal tape, their mental dialogue. Make it be a resounding message of faith and reassurance. Everyone wins when a child is built up to believe in themselves. You will feel rewarded too!