If you are the parent of a sports-loving kid, then chances are you are all these things and more.
When your child is involved in sports (or any interest, for that matter), you most probably are wearing many different hats.
It’s not an easy task. Most parents would do everything in their power to give the best to their kids. Parents of sports-minded kids might be willing to go through hoops just to help their kids achieve their Olympic dreams.
Aside from paying for private ice skating lessons, bringing and fetching them from tennis lessons, or cheering them on at every tournament, you may wonder what else you can do to be a supportive parent to your little athlete.
Here are three more things that you can try that will show them that you are on their team:
1. Teach them not just to be responsible, but also accountable
Responsibility and accountability are similar but not quite the same. Being accountable is a step up from responsibility in that one is expected to be answerable for their actions. For example, your child is responsible for the task cleaning up the tennis balls after every practice. When it rains one day and the tennis balls are soaked because they were left lying around, then your child is accountable for the consequences of this.
Being accountable for something reminds them to be mindful of their responsibilities. As stewards of their own sports equipment, they should be custodians of their own athletic gear and they should be ready for any consequence to their action. Being accountable beyond simply being responsible – it also takes into consideration the possible outcomes of responsibility… or irresponsibility.
Your children should be encouraged to do their best on all tasks they take responsibility for, even if they are not necessarily sports-related. It could be balancing their sports activities with academics or doing their chores at home even if they are tired of doing triple axels in practice.
Show them that the reason you won’t do their chores for them even if they are tired from training is because you want them to learn how to be responsible, accountable individuals.
2. Teach them resilience
As a parent, your natural instinct is to protect your child from getting hurt. However, if your child is into sports, you will certainly see them slip, slide, tumble, or fall. These are all naturally occurring in sports, and it is accepted that every athlete will experience this at some point. They will win some games, they will lose some games. These are facts of a sportsperson’s life.
You should be able to guide them to expect and accept that these setbacks will happen. Kids must choose not to crumble under pressure, beat themselves up over a slight error or quit at the first sign of hardship.
Teach them that there will be challenges that they will need to overcome to reach their goals. Make them understand that unless they persevere, they cannot move forward with their athletic dreams and that these small failures are part of the growing process.
Being overprotective will undermine the development of resilience. Allow your kids to be strong in the knowledge that they can overcome challenges through hard work and determination. Make them understand you are still cheering them on, more so even, when they get back up from a fall. These are the lessons of resilience that are essential for parents to teach and children to learn.
3. Talk with them
Instead of having a one-way communication of talking at or to your children, engage in a conversation. Practice two-way communication wherein both you and your child have the chance to listen and hear what the other is saying and to contribute a well-thought response to the discussion.
Checking in by talking to your child regularly helps gauge their interest in the sport they are participating. You can learn about their challenges, their successes, their fears, and also use it to reflect on if you may be putting undue and unintended pressure on them. You may be so gung-ho about your kid being chosen to compete that you forget to check how he feels about it. Not all sports-loving kids are wired for competitions – some relish being in the spotlight, others are content to stay in the wings.
Have fun, carefree conversations that don’t necessarily center around sports performance. Spend dinnertime talking about interests outside of sports. Try to make time to be together and learn what really happens on and off court. Are the coaches treating them well? What else can you do to make their sports life more enriching? When you are open to listening without judgment, it is easier for them to open up to you regarding school, sports, or life in general.
Life is a playground
In your child’s life, you are a mentor who will show them how to navigate twists and turns. You can guide them along the way, but ultimately they will choose which road to take. Your guidance is crucial in molding them to be strong, honest, and kind people.
Sometimes, you even have to let them experience failure just so they can develop an awareness of what the real world is like. According to Dr. Stephanie O’Leary, clinical psychologist and author of “Parenting in the Real World: The Rules Have Changed,” experiencing failure will help them learn how to cope. It will also help them relate to others in a more genuine way and instill in them the value of hard work and sustained effort.
Being a great sports parent involves actions beyond the field of play, and your love, commitment and best efforts are certain to pay off in many ways.