On the weekend, when all the sport teams are on the field are kicking or passing a ball, it is easy to see that they are not the only ones sweating. From the bench, a group of anxious parents try to give instructions that can hardly be heard on the field. The quieter ones try using the power of their thoughts to push the ball to the left. It is funny to watch. Parents move their bodies as if they can help their kids move the ball straight into the basket or the goal.
Well, the truth is that parents can help a lot in directing their kids, but the playing filed is the last place to do that.
Participating in any kind of sport is very important for every child (and parent). Sporting activities can teach children a lot about determination, effort, practice, team work, leadership and, most of all, about achievement. While these are the positive things sport can give kids, there are some negative things that can be taught and there is a fine line between them. If the right connection was not made, kids can learn to be competitive, pushy, aggressive, angry and, worst of all, think they are a failure.
There are 9 things we need to do as parents to make sure our kids take the positive out of sports rather than the negative. Here are the first 4. I will tell you about the last 5 tomorrow.
Emphasise the Child’s Needs
Some parents use their kids’ sporting activities to fulfil their own needs. Whether they wanted to do it when they were kids, but had no chance or they were good at that sport when they were kids and want their kids to experience the joy of this sport, parents must ask themselves if they are putting their needs ahead of their kids’.
Allow your kids to choose the sport they want to and avoid getting your agenda in it. You can tell your kid about your joy from a particular sport but never to them to participate in it just because you liked it.
It is OK to Choose a Sport for the Friends
Some kids choose their sport only because others in their class are doing it. Sport is a tool that kids use for social reasons, not just for health and enjoyment. The younger they are, they more likely they are to choose a sport for the company. This reason is valid and is healthy for kids. Some sports are more popular than others and it is good for kids to gain popularity just by participating in that sport.
Obviously, there is a fine line between choosing something and sticking to it and changing your mind only because a friend left or decided to do something else.
I tell my kids that life is about experiencing different things, so it is OK to swap activities, but the rule is that they stick to the basic program as long as it lasts (typically a school term) and only then make a change. If the course is for 8 weeks, I ask for a promise that they will stick to the 8 weeks with 100% motivation and dedication.
Sometimes, my kids have realised it was not exactly what they thought it would be, or that they did not like it, or that the coach was not right for them, but every opportunity like this has taught them a good lesson about choosing the right sport.
Make sure you tell your kids it is OK for them to switch from one activity to another and make sure your kids know your limits. If they are choosing or changing because of their friends, be happy, because they have good social sense (at the same time, stay on guard to make sure this does not control their life).
Sport Must Be Done for Positive Reasons
Sport is something kids do to be happy. If kids associates any kind of sport to pain, there is an absolute guarantee they are going to learn the negative things from this wonderful experience.
It is important to connect the sport with positive feelings. If the sport is to “lose weight” or “not to be clumsy” than every time the kid does this sport, it reinforces the fact they are fat or clumsy.
Some parents are so preoccupied with the “pain” reasons to do the sport that they talk too much about winning, disappointment, expectations. When you communicate with your kids about their sport make sure to connect this activity with joy, fun, health and not disappointment and needing to prove anything to mom or dad. The only expectations they need to have are to be happy while playing.
It Is the Kids’ Responsibility to Have Fun
It happened to me too that I wanted the kids to enjoy things so much that I took on myself the responsibility to make them happy in their activities. This was a trap. With this attitude, I disempowered the kids to take the responsibility over their feelings. Whenever they were not happy, it was because mom (or dad) picked a bad coach, or mom and dad forced me to participate or any other excuse that kept them unhappy with their activities.
Make sure you clarify to your kids that you both choose activities based on what you know at any given time. You never know what is going to happen because you may be a lot of things but you are not a fortune teller. You cannot tell the coach is going to get married, or get a new job in a different city, or go through a rough patch with his girlfriend and things are not going to be fun, but you can guarantee that after the basic program, you will both be able to sit down and discuss the situation and asses whether to continue or stop.
It is important that you do not take that responsibility on yourself.
When you talk to your kids about how happy they are in the activity, make sure they understand it is their responsibility to enjoy it. Not mom and dad, not the coach and not their friends. Them. They can choose to find the fun in every activity. Enjoying the sport is the reason they do it in the first place.
Please come back and read more about kids and sport tomorrow.