I know it is difficult and heartbreaking to watch our kids suffer. When we watch our kids fall at a competition, we feel their sorrow. When we watch our kids suffer through a mental block, we feel their helplessness. When we see our kids watch their teammates more up a level without them, we feel their pain.
As sports parents, we would do anything to protect our athletes. We want to take away their sorrow, we want to give them the answers they need, we want to protect them from pain. We want to ride in our our white horses and be their saviors. We want to fight their battles, remove their enemies, and provide a life a happiness. For if they are happy, then we parents must be doing our jobs.
When we rescue them, what are we really teaching them? If we always come to their rescue when they are hurting, sad, embarrassed, angry, or suffering, we are only teaching them that we will solve their problems, we will save them. We are teaching them they aren’t strong enough to think and fight on their own and we must think and fight for them.
They know that no matter what happens in their lives or sport, they will be okay: IF mom and dad are around.
What happens when we aren’t there? When they are out competing on their own, will they know how to handle the stress and pressure? When they fall, will they know how to get up on their own? When they are by themselves struggling to throw a new skill by themselves, how will they be able to handle it? When they perform a skill for the first time, will they believe they are capable of trusting themselves? When they have to fight through a fear, do they know they are strong enough to win?
When parents fight their children’s battles, it does more harm than good. It sends the message we don’t trust or believe they are strong enough to do it on their own.
Of course parents must not cut the cord and allow their kids to plummet into the despair. It isn’t all or nothing. We must teach our children HOW to be strong, fight, and win their own battles. We need to empower them with the tools they need to be fierce, powerful, independent fighters. We need to guide them, teach them, and then let them go try.
- Teach them HOW to be independent.
AT HOME: We must allow our children to try new things on their own, even if it means they will spill, make a mess, paint outside the lines, or look mismatched for the day. Instead of doing it for them, we can teach them how to hold the cup so they won’t spill or what they can look for in a stylish outfit. They must learn to that they can and will take care of themselves when they need to.
IN SPORTS: We must let our athletes be independent.
We must give them room to learn without us. Once we have found a sports program we feel is safe and we trust the coaches, we must walk away and give our athletes time to be on their own.
They must learn how to be on their own and look to us when they run into a challenge. Instead of looking into the parent section to see if we are watching, are going to give them instructions, or come to their rescue. They must learn how to look inside themselves for the answers.
They must learn how to have their own relationship with their coach, teammates, and sport. They must learn how to communicate, ask questions, stand up for themselves, find their own friends, or cope with situations.
- Teach them HOW to be strong.
AT HOME: Our words matter. A child that is constantly told they are lazy, they don’t listen, or they never do what they are told may not grow up to think otherwise. We must empower our children to know their strengths and work on their weaknesses.
We must focus on what they do well. Emphasize when they work hard or the effort they put into projects. When the child works very hard on a school project, don’t look at it and say,” You didn’t do this right at all!” We must tell them they worked hard on it and then offer advice on ways they can improve.
We must show them it is okay when we make mistakes or are wrong. We will show them we can go on and work through difficult situations.
IN SPORTS: We won’t compare them to others, judge their outcome, and feel bad because they didn’t win. We will focus on the effort and work. We all must remember it is not a reflection on who we are when we win or lose, it is only a performance.
We must take responsibility for our actions and not blame the judges, equipment, or coaches for our athletes performance. We must not allow our athlete to blame others as well.
If they made mistakes, they will be okay. They will figure out what went wrong and what they can do to fix it. We will let them know it is okay to be wrong or make mistakes. Being wrong doesn’t make us bad people, it only means we were not right.
- Teach them HOW to fight.
AT HOME: Fighting means to stand up for what we believe or want. It means when a challenge is placed on front of us, we do not shy away, we stay until the battle is won. We fight.
It is important to teach our children how to fight the right way. We don’t need to fight to be right, but fight for what is right. We will teach them how to accept and respect opposing views and keep emotions away from the battle. Show them that when it may seem like there is no way to win, not to give up. We can teach them how to find a different strategy or angle, or fight smarter and find ways to chip away at the challenge until it is manageable.
If they don’t win, we will tell them it is okay. Hug them and love them. Not everyone will be first, but that isn’t always what defines winning.
Winning may come in different forms. They may learn something more important than winning along the way. Learning how to fight may be the win. They may not have won they way they wanted, but they may have learned something way more valuable.
IN SPORTS: Let them suffer. As difficult as it may sound, we need to let them suffer through their challenges and learn how to overcome them on their own.
We will guide them and teach them, but let them fight through on their own. The only way they can learn is by figuring it out on their own. Let them figure out how to move up levels, let them learn they will be okay if they don’t. Let them figure out how to get back up after a scary fall. Let them figure out they are independent, strong, and brave.
When we let our athletes suffer through their challenges, we also allow them to embrace the feeling of accomplishing their own success. They did it on their own, they fought and won.
We are here to guide, love, and teach our children. It is not our job to rescue them from pain, hurt, or suffering. It is our job to empower them with the tools they need.
There will be times when we will need to be there and protect our children, and when that time comes we will put on our capes, jump on our horses, and be there with no hesitation.
However, we do not need to save them from the everyday struggles. They don’t want us to. Our children what to learn on their own, they want us to let them try.
There is no better feeling then knowing that you have the power inside of you to achieve your own goals. There is also no better feeling than to know your children have the power inside them to achieve their goals, and they can rescue themselves.