A lot has been written about positive behaviours and positive thinking in recent years. From sports coaches to business leaders, these behavioural techniques and strategies have been adopted with great success, in the workplace and on the field.
However, on the flip side, it’s important to recognise those behaviours that are equally as damaging. One of these is not living vicariously through your child – an issue very commonly seen in parents in sport.
Some mum and dads have big ambitions for their kids sporting success, others are pushy parents, some are living out their personal fantasies through their children.
It can be hard to recognise this sort of behaviour in yourself, so we’ve pulled together the key tell-tale signs. If you’re big into sport for children and can often be seen coaching from the side-lines, read on, this might be you:
As much as you want to catapult your child to success, that’s what a sports coach is there for. As such, try and take a step back and give your child enough space to make his or her own decisions in a game. Avoid vocalising your view all the time, it will only be off-putting to your child and other team members.
The best way to help grow your child is to give them enough space and responsibility to do so. It’s one of the fundamentals of child development through sport.
Be in charge of your emotions
It’s easier said than done, but try to stay in charge of your emotions. This is important for your own composure, but also for your child. As a role model, it’s important to set a standard for future behaviours.
Physical activity for children is as much about the fun and enjoyment as the competitive side. Try and keep this in check and refrain from getting angry at your child if they make a mistake. If anything, it’s one of the best ways for them to learn.
Shouting will not achieve anything, other than a reputation you really don’t want. Try and keep in mind that sport is about having fun.
Don’t get over-involved
Relinquishing control to the sports coach is a bitter pill to swallow. But it’s all part of building trust with your child. This means giving them the autonomy to work at their own pace, without you by their side.
Simply put: don’t get over-involved. Be the support they need, and that means keeping a healthy distance. Just being present is often the greatest reassurance you can give.
Take a step back
Sometimes we have to let go to allow our children to grow. Standing on their own two feet is something that sport teaches children, and something parents need to respect.
If you’re guilty of living vicariously through your child, try and be more mindful of your actions and take a step back. Think about how you would react if you saw another parent acting in the same way, sometimes looking at yourself from a third party perspective is the best way to be objective.
Don’t pressurise your child
A typical behaviour from an over-involved parent in sport is putting pressure on their child. In some part, due to the success of athletes like the Williams sisters and Tiger Woods, it’s almost viewed as a prerequisite for sporting success.
But this isn’t always the right approach, and rarely does it work.
Sport should be viewed as a fun activity for your child – not a chore. The problem with putting your child under pressure is that they may not cope well with the stress, or they may resent you for it. This can manifest in many ways, from total withdrawal to self-esteem issues. It’s far better therefore to be supportive and champion your child’s talent.
Don’t be a pushy parent
We all know the type – the pushy parent that thinks they know best. Don’t be that guy or girl!
Aside from being a thorn in the side of a sports coach, it may have quite the opposite desired effect in your child. Many experts in the field believe that pushy parenting can ultimately turn the child off sport.
Refrain from blame
There will be times when your child performs badly, or is let down by their team members. As far as sports coach responsibilities go, this is one of them. In terms of parent responsibilities, it’s not something that should concern you.
Your child will quickly pick up on your behaviours. Therefore, teach them to take responsibility for their own actions, rather than placing the blame on others. As difficult as this is to teach, it’s a life lesson that will benefit them greatly.
Look at your own shortcomings
It’s not uncommon to see your own failures as a source of frustration in others. For instance, if you lack discipline and attention to detail, and see this in your child, try not to make it an issue.
Try to overcome the urge to project your own shortcomings onto your child. You can achieve this by accepting and acknowledging your own failures, as sports psychology experts advise.
Being objective about yourself requires the ability to see your strengths and weaknesses without discrimination. If you can exercise this, you will be able to operate more efficiently.
With a heightened sense of self, you will be able to take stock and observe when you are becoming too involved. This takes time and practice, but there’s a few things you can do to help yourself.
As a thought, start with a journal. Use this for self-reflection as well as goal setting and planning. Set 10 minutes aside every day to do this and perform self-reflection. It’s a technique that sports coaches recommend to their athletes. In time, you must just find you’re the parent you always knew you could be.