The article, “7 Crippling Parenting Behaviors That Keep Children From Growing Into Leaders” discusses research that identifies major mistakes being made when raising children. These mistakes can reduce children’s self-confidence and limit their chances of becoming successful in their careers and personal lives.
We see these mistakes regularly on the tennis court. So how can we improve? Here’s our take on how the 7 behaviours cited in the article could help parents when their children playing, training or competing, or even when they are just being kids away from the tennis court.
The research says, “We don’t let our children experience risk”
What we can do better: Don’t remove all risk from the game – let children lose
Have challenging training goals which take time to achieve is a good thing. As long as the goal are acheivable, then failing to reach those goals is OK, as long as the child and the parents see some improvement over time, and that the child feels that they are getting closer to achieving the goal. Sometimes it might mean that the goal was set too high, but children need to understand that they can’t always have things their own way. Competition is healthy, and so is losing. Children need to learn that they can’t win every match they play. They may lose because their opponent played better, or because they just didn’t play very well on that day. It happens; they need to learn how to deal with it.
Avoiding trying new things in the lesson for the fear of It not working, or failing to enter your child into a tournament for the fear of losing are ways in which we try to protect children from risk. Instead we should strive to get a bit better each time and learn from mistakes, experimenting and trying new things along the way.
Other ways of winning a match that is not the scoreline include: maintaining a positive attitude, fighting spirit, chasing every ball, good sportsmanship, showing new developments, reacting well and all successes.
The research says, “We rescue too quickly”
What we can do better: Let children solve problems themselves – even if they make mistake
Watching your child make mistakes isn’t easy. It could be something as basic as wanting to pack your child’s tennis bag because you know they will forget something! This support doesn’t do children any favours. It’s far better to let them pack their bag and possibly (probably!) forget something. Children cannot learn if we do their thinking for them.
One of the most difficult things for parents is watching their child struggling to solve problems on court; parents get emotional and frustrated. However, parents need to fight their natural temptation to solve the problem for them by giving advice from the sidelines. Children are learning through their errors, and expecting no errors is totally unrealistic. Did you realise that a professional tennis player loses a third of points in a match through unforced errors? So, what should we expect from our children?
When we allow our children to make mistakes (and successes), we create good decision makers who can balance risk vs reward.
The research says, “We rave too easily”
What we can do better: Be objective with children
You love your kids; that’s not being questioned, but most parents are guilty, at some point, of exaggerating when their kids win or when they lose. We frequently hear parents say things like, “That was just bad luck! You’re such a star and you played brilliantly!” When the truth is that it wasn’t luck, the child that won played better and the losing child made a lot of mistakes or didn’t play well. Saying that isn’t being fair to the winner or the child that lost, and it undermines the parent’s credibility. Kids aren’t silly, they know when they didn’t play well.
Being objective with your own kids can be hard. You should reward real achievements, such as making consistent effort or making progress towards a goal, but be objective and keep things on an even keel. We cannot get away from the reality that winning provides the most confidence for us.
There may be only one person who wins the trophy, but we can learn to lose constructively by being a winner in the context of achieving our own goals. That is not being soft; that is enhancing different individuals character for the future.
The research says, “We let guilt get in the way of leading well”
What we can do better: Fairly reward and praise earned achievements
We love our kids unconditionally, right? That doesn’t meant that we must treat them the same whether they win or lose. When our children win, through their own effort, determination and choices, they deserve praise for that achievement and those qualities. We don’t have to reward the children who did not achieve something, and we don’t have to reward them equally for all acheivements. That isn’t being fair.
Just remember, when they don’t win, they can still deserve praise – at times, more praise than when they win! There are a lot of things that matter – effort, sporting behaviour, fair play; rewarding these sends a strong message about the things that matter in sport. Excelling in these areas builds character and strong ethics which are lessons for love. Additionally, rewarding a child for winning, when they behaved very badly or didn’t have to try, reinforaces bad behaviour.
Rewarding the short term success of winning a match, or punishing the short term failure of losing a match sends a message that results are everything. They aren’t.
The research says, “We don’t share our past mistakes”
What we can do better: Share your experiences & mistakes honestly
It’s quite possible that it your child plays tennis, you may have been sporty in your youth (maybe you still are!). If you participated and competed in sport, you will have made mistakes, or done things you regret. Perhaps you learned some valuable life lessons from life away from sport, from friendships or school. Regardless of the context, those life lessons shared with your children are like gold. They make you real, they make you human – and they help your child to put the situation into perspective. Your child might be feeling like their world is ending but if they know you’ve been there, it will help your child identify with a particular issue or challenge they are facing. So, discuss your past mistakes with your young tennis player.
If you competed in a sport, take yourself back to those days and remember how it felt when competing; the nerves, the tension the excitement, the elation and the disappointment. We all go through it and it does not get better as you get older!! Share it!
The research says, “We mistake intelligence, giftedness and influence for maturity”
What we can do better: Remember that children are children – even those who are better than others at something
Is your child doing well in their tennis? Maybe they’ve been selected for a team or won a tournament recently. Maybe they are even, dare we say it, talented! If they are, that’s great. But, and it’s a big but, your young child is still young. An 8-year old tournament winner is still an 8-year old; a 12-year old selected for the team is still a 12-year old. When we see children excelling at a young age, we see what they excel in, but it’s so easy to forget their age and their maturity. Let young kids be young kids, and do what young kids do. All children have different amounts of experience, playing and competing. Take this into consideration.
Comparing can be dangerous because you may well not be comparing like with like especially when children are developing. Remember we are all on a journey and we will go through different checkpoints at different times and we all have our own destiny. You need to protect your child from possible performance slumps too. Your child’s worth doesn’t diminish because they’re not winning as many matches at 12 years as they did when they were 8.
The research says, “We don’t practice what we preach”
What we can do better: Model the behaviour you want your children to display
In life and in sport, do you model perfect behaviour all the time? Of course not! Ever heard the phrase “do as I say and not as I do”? Kids will take note of your actions more than your words. The way they see you conduct yourself at home, in every day life and in your own sporting environment say so much about your core values, and are the best possible life lessons for your children to copy. Are your behaviours on the balcony or by the side of the court the best they can be? Do you represent fairness, inclusion, appreciation? Do you spread positivity between your parental peers? Do you offer your time to help the programme and spend time to understand what they are trying to achieve?
Reference for this article
This discussion is based on Kathy Caprino’s article https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2014/01/16/7-crippling-parenting-behaviors-that-keep-children-from-growing-into-leaders/#1d76fa8e5957
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This article is updated from one we originally published on: Jun 13, 2017