Dear style & substance:
Our children are very involved in athletics and seem to be either discouraged and moody after a loss or over the moon after a great game. Since we have two high school kids, one can be up and the other down, depending on their athletic performance, a real struggle. What is an approach you would suggest, as we are tired and obviously not handling it too well?
A common theme in families is to have one child doing great, while the other(s) are struggling, and vice versa. This can be in sports (your situation), academics, social lives, music, etc. We are certainly not sports psychologists, but have experienced these circumstances ourselves. Do take into consideration that some of the moodiness is part of their own growing and changing, not just sports. We tend to attach an emotion to a situation, when sometimes it is simply being a teen.
First, we suggest to check on what your expectations are of each of your children. If you have an overachieving or highly competitive spirit, and are always going for the win yourself, their reaction could stem from this. A child growing up within this type of home can be a study in the unique combination of DNA and experience, the nature vs. nurture debate. Be honest about your own competitive spirit; this includes times it has served you well and times when it did not. Share your own stories about winning and how you handled loss.
Many children will base their personal expectations on trying to please parents. As parents, we have to be very aware of our reactions before, during, and after a competition. Do we praise graceful winning or losing? Do we make excuses for a loss by blaming the ref or another player’s unfair advantage? Most importantly, do we as parents offer a realistic, yet kind, review of all sides?
Be aware of your child’s expectation of his/her own performance. Competing with themselves is a good way to measure continued improvement; whether it be a better race time, or working on improving specific skills. Being a member of a team should never be minimized. In today’s world, individuals often lose sight of being a team player – we often celebrate personal glory rather than personal contributions to the greater good. A good teammate is as important as the MVP, on the field and in life. As they grow into adults, they will find that team work is a skill that employers seek and often find lacking.
If the child doesn’t bring up the disappointment themselves, it is often wise to let it sit, until they are ready to talk about it. A few brief words can express support, but leave it at that. We have had many silent car rides following defeat! Never accept poor sportsmanship from your child, losing or winning with dignity, is the ultimate goal of any competition. Best effort along with a realistic self-assessment of the competition is something to be discussed when your child is ready and open to listening.
Do your part — get them to school on time (so playing is not jeopardized), encourage them to get good rest, feed them well and get uniforms ready. This support relieves some of the stress going into a game or meet.
Raising well rounded kids is your best bet. If they are exposed to many different aspects of life and know what it feels like to try new things, they are not only experienced and confident, but they are also compassionate to other athletes who feel like they will never get the hang of the sport or are feeling defeated by not reaching their potential.
Keep your own perspective; you are trying to raise successful human beings, not athletic superstars. Let your child drive the level of involvement that they wish to maintain.
A S K
Style & Substance:
Michele Armani and Sally Meisenheimer
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