I love reading about motivation and other psychological articles that can benefit kids, but sometimes the content can be a bit dry. I just finished reading this great article, “10 Smart Strategies to Manage ‘Fear of Failure’ in Youth Sports” on Champions Unplugged. It’s a great resource for collegiate athletes that was created by an NCAA Division I athlete and coach.
The strategies that the author recommends are also great for younger kids, as I’ve outlined below:
Good relationships with family, friends and teammates are important. Make sure that your child has play dates with kids in their elementary school class (not just other classes or through other activities). Encourage socializing with other teammates and try to have positive family functions that integrate child-approved activities.
Give setbacks and defeats their moment and then Let It Go.
Losing is a part of life. It happens. Sometimes it happens a lot. When your child loses, let them focus on it. It’s ok to give the failure or loss its moment. Then, guide them toward moving on. The next day you can begin a conversation about how they can make the next game better.
There is so much change in a child’s life and sometimes sports can become more than an activity. Part of childhood is finding out likes/dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. Accepting change instead of constantly dwelling on them makes life easier and less frustrating. Coach your child to focus on the things he or she can control. Things they can’t control? Injuries, other players, other teams, other coaches, the weather, traffic, the ref. Things they can control? Practicing hard, trying new things, being prepared, being coachable.
Make achievable goals.
Instead of encouraging your child’s goal of going to the Olympics, work on goals like how many times he or she can go to practice that week, or how much time can they realistically shave off in the next month if they practice X number of times.
Action over Avoidance.
Sadly in some families avoidance is a life saver. But it’s a tough trait to pass on. When your child encounters a negative situation or feeling, have them take action. Encourage them to speak up freely with you and work with them on how they can advocate for themselves. This can be anything from talking to a coach about playing time to a teacher about a grade. Taking action for yourself is empowering and helps kids become more resilient.
It’s really important for kids to be self-aware. At the same time, it’s also important for them to have accurate self-awareness. The great thing about self-awareness is it can be taught, often through simple parent-child conversations. During these conversations, it’s important to listen to what your child is saying and not label them. For tips about building self awareness check out this article.
Nurture a positive view of yourself.
There has been so much press about kids self perceptions and comparing themselves to the beautiful portraits on instagram. It’s important for kids to find the positive in themselves. That’s why we try to reinforce our child’s strengths and ability to solve problems. We’re big believers in riddles and puzzles, which are fun ways to look at problems in a no-stress environment. Reinforcing natural strengths helps ward off the critical and celebrating trying new things helps relieve fear.
Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.
I remember reading a book about parenting tweens and it said don’t start a war if your kid waits one more minute over her 5 minute warning to get started on something. Remember that long-term you don’t want your child to jump every time someone asks her to do something. So it’s important to look at things as a part of life and how they can learn from it.
In other words, it’s important to be able to BOUNCE BACK.
The glass is half full.
Being an optimist is an easier way of life. Feeling optimistic gives kids the sense that they can do it, while a negative outlook may stop your child from trying. A pessimistic child is more likely to focus on how they may fail or their fears, both of which may hold your child back.
More than just a player.
Sure, your little A player may be the best person on the team and you may have spent thousands of dollars on equipment, training and teams. But kids need more than one amazing sport to develop. Think about if you are adding stress to their experience or if they are enjoying themselves. Off the field, does your child enjoy any activities that help them relax? Do you practice gratitude and cherish healthy food with loved ones? Mindfulness and gratitude are two skills that will help your child long after they’ve stopped playing and are easy to integrate. Try yoga, reading, art or playing legos.
Parenting now is harder than it used to be, but helping your kid instill a sense of confidence and resiliency at a younger age will help them in the long run. And that’s what we’re working towards, right? Because the kids of today are the leaders of tomorrow.