It’s a parental instinct to keep your kids from harm and hurt and it’s a good thing for parents to do–for a while.
As your children grow, you give them more responsibilities and privileges. They learn to drive, do their own laundry, keep up with their homework. You proudly watch them grow up, and even though you may feel like you are “letting go,” there is still that last apron string that you just can’t seem to cut.
In an effort to continue protecting, we do not let them fight their own battles.
Hang around a gymnasium, soccer field, football field, baseball or softball diamond and you will parents who struggle with this. Whether it’s a fight for playing time, a conflict with a coach, or dealing with a trash-talking teammate, parents step in to do battle, not realizing that their actions are actually hurting their kids more than helping them.
It may take all the self-control you can muster to not step in with guns blazing, but if you do step in, you are hindering them from growing in their independence.
Start by being a diligent listener.
When your kids are ready to tell you about their struggles, listen more than you speak. When kids get in the car after practice the last thing they want is to answer a bunch of questions about the practice.
So one simple question about “how was your day” should suffice until they are ready to talk.
Teach them to how to speak for themselves.
Discuss with them how they can talk to the coach about a problem. My husband has coached for 29 years and he explains that there are good and bad ways to confront a coach.
“What do I have to do to get on your radar?”
Or “What do I have to do to get on the court/field more?”
This approach puts the responsibility on the athlete to improve and fight for his time and does not sound accusatory to the coach.
“How come I’m not playing more? I’m better than Joe or Susie!”
Or, “Coach, how come I’m not playing? Coach, how come I’m not playing? Coach, how come I’m not playing?”
Coaches do not like to be pestered!
Prepare them for a long fight.
Kids want to have everything NOW, including a victory and a resolution to problems. But some battles cannot be won overnight; they may even be season-long.
When our kids were discouraged about their playing time or their performance, I’d like to say that their persistence was always rewarded. However, not all sports seasons have happy endings.
I’ve seen my volleyball-playing daughter win the battle for starting libero by mid-season and I’ve seen my son struggle until the very last game with a basketball coach he could never seem to please. In both cases, our kids fought their own battle every step of the way, with my husband and I cheering from the sidelines.
Let your kids go, let them fight.
Long after the balls and bats and hoops gather dust in the garage, the life lessons your athletes learned as they fought their battles on the court and field will prepare them just a little bit more for the battles of life that lay ahead.
Janis B. Meredith is a parenting coach who wants to help parents raise champions. Learn how she can help you achieve your parenting goals with a FREE introductory coaching call!