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Our life coaches, Style and Substance: Kids and athletics

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?

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