Children & sport: encouraging excellence or pushing too hard?

By admin
27 April 2014

Like most moms, you probably believe your child can do anything and is excellent at everything they attempt. But when should you encourage sporting excellence and when is it best to ease up and let your child find their own way?

The Winter Olympics is drawing to a close this weekend and most of us are a little more focused on sporting brilliance than usual. You probably believe your child can do anything and is excellent at everything they attempt. But when should you encourage sporting excellence and when is it best to ease up and let your child find their own way?

What do the experts say?

Educational psychologist Raquel Ferreira says sport has a lot of benefits for children. However, their age, ability and skill should always be considered, for example children younger than six have a short attention span.

Most importantly your child should be enjoying the sport, and parents must avoid a heavy schedule to avoid burning the child out.

Apply some healthy encouragement

If you really believe your child is exceptionally gifted at a particular sport, speak to their coach and find out whether they exceed normal expectations for their age group.

The only way to support and nurture your child’s talent is to become involved and to be supportive and encouraging. You should also consider signing them up at a local sports club. But don’t become so involved your child’s schoolwork and social life suffers, warns Ferreira.

“Should your child not win in a match it helps to have a motivating mantra such as ‘this is not failure but one step closer to success’. Keep the emphasis on the enjoyment of the sport and not the result.” Just because a child is talented doesn’t mean they love doing the activity.

You might be pushing too hard if:

  • Your life revolves around your child’s sporting engagements or achievements.
  • You become moody or angry if your child doesn’t achieve the goals you think they should.
  • Your happiness revolves around your child’s achievements.
  • You fight with your child each time they need to go to practice or compete in an event.

How to pull back:

  • Try to have some insight into your own behaviour.
  • Listen to your child.
  • Pay attention if your child complains of being tired or doesn’t want to go to practice.
  • Let your child express him or herself in a comfortable, safe place.
  • Visit an educational psychologist if you suspect you need more help.

Recommended reading for moms who struggle with this problem:

  • How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk  by Elaine Mazlish
  • Boundaries with Kids: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Help Your Children Gain Control of Their Lives by Dr Henry Cloud and John Townsend

-Londiwe Dlomo 

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