Watching your kid fail at sports is the best thing you can do for them


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Lindsay Weiss

posted in Parenting

For those of you dreaming about what sports your kids will play one day, let me tell you something I wish I’d known. As a mom with kids in three vastly different competitive sports -- soccer, baseball, and cheer – it occurred to me (while sitting at my eleventy billionth baseball game last weekend) that standing by and watching them “fail” is one of the hardest parts of my job. It’s also one of the best things I can do... just sit there quietly.

Watching your 10-year-old pitch terribly and give up a six-run lead, causing his team to lose, is like someone dragging a fork across a chalkboard FOR THREE SOLID INNINGS.

Watching your daughter fall to the ground (first praying she’s okay) and knowing immediately it will cost the team a bid to nationals is like a hot poker going straight through your heart.

I want to be clear about "failure" here; I'm not encouraging anyone to keep their kid in a sport they are not enjoying or don't have any aptitude for. Repeated failure with little success does not build confidence. But if your kiddo enjoys a sport and wants to work at it, there are going to be great days, okay days and terrible days. They are going to make dumb mistakes and view them as failures, even though they are not. We have to allow them to do it, so they can learn.

I’ve read all the articles about how we, as parents, should be supportive as kids fail and simply tell them “I just love to watch you play” versus making it about their performance. I get this philosophy. But I wish someone had prepared me for how freaking HARD it is to stand there and witness them going down in flames!

For me, I stand by quietly, knowing I could try to do something about it -- yell at the umpire (who is a 12-year-old kid) for making terrible calls, yell at the coach who keeps him in the game, point fingers at the girls who were supposed to keep my girl up -- and many, many parents do. But I don’t. I can’t. Because this is how character is built. This is how grit is developed. This is how kids become good people. They learn to fail and they learn how to come back from it. They learn to take responsibility and how to get out of their heads and rise above. They learn that their absolute worst fear can come true and yet -- they survive.

(But seriously, I want to crawl into a hole as I’m forced to watch this stuff play out.)

On the flip side, it makes the “shining star” moments so much brighter. Yesterday, my 10-year-old struck out six batters in a row and began a six-run hitting streak that won them the game. His team clobbered him with joy. Those are the good days.

So here’s my advice for parents: Get yourself a comfortable chair, one that will support you through years of anxiety and angst. Stay in it.

If something great happens, jump up and cheer your butt off. But if your kiddo is having a bad day (and s/he will -- more often than not in the beginning), stay put in that chair. What you do while sitting might depend on your kid (one of mine does not want any yelling or encouragement so we stay silent; the other loves the hoots and hollers) but keep your butt in the chair.

Do not stand up and yell at the coaches, umps, other parents or other teammates. Do not stand up and look worried, because your kid sees that. Do not pace. Sit in the chair and endure. (I have, on occasion, put my sunglasses on and closed my eyes.) If it doesn’t go well, keep telling yourself that this is a growth opportunity and it’s your job to help them through it. Tell yourself that today sucks so bad, but if s/he gets back out there tomorrow or next week YOU HAVE WON.

You have to stand by quietly and watch them fail. And it will be torture, but you know in your heart it is not failing at all. Because when they pick themselves up and come back on that field or on that stage, that is better than any winning record. That is you winning at parenting and that is your kid winning at life.

What do you do to endure during the bad days?

The post Watching your kid fail at sports is the best thing you can do for them appeared first on BabyCenter Blog.