Children are like little mirrors: They reflect everything that happens around them, especially with their parents.
With that, the most important thing you can do to influence your child positively is to lead by example.
From my many experiences with athletes and parents, here are ten surefire ways to help your child learn life lessons through sports:
- Live a healthy lifestyle.
- Let the sport come to the child. Introducing a child to a sport is one thing while imposing your own will is another. The more you impose your will on your child, the greater chance that your child will hate that sport and want to find another outlet.
- Have a great attitude. Don’t dread going to the gym in front of your children. If you feel this way, keep it to yourself and work on finding a form of exercise that you like. Be authentic if and when you tell your child that you love working out. Let your child decide on their own if they do too.
- If you skip a workout, don’t make excuses in front of your child. To make an excuse is to rationalize. We rationalize to make unacceptable behaviour seem acceptable. Don’t teach your child this defence mechanism. If you miss a planned workout, own it. It is never too early to model accountability.
- Don’t live vicariously through your child. I find that many underachieving parents try to raise overachieving children. You’ve had your chance at childhood; give the child his or hers. You still have an opportunity to achieve as an adult – take it.
- Don’t talk trash with your child. Opposing competitors do that. You are on the same team.
- Do not compete with your child. If you are tempted to do so, find real competition.
- Embrace being your child’s cheerleader. Encourage, support and cheer. Be present. Celebrate strengths and victories. Your child will look to you in moments of triumph and defeat. He will cheer you on in your successes as an adult.
- Provide feedback wisely. It is better to say nothing if you don’t know what you are talking about. Your son may look up to you as knowledgeable in the sport that they are participating in. Don’t remove all doubt. Always give positive feedback no matter the situation. When it comes to negative feedback, you should only provide this after a successful competition or situation. Yes, you read that correctly. After a not-so-successful competition, your child will not listen to what you are saying anyway. They will probably get angry and fight back.
- Don’t friend your son or daughter. Find life lessons and point them out. Be a role model.
Just remember that you set the example. Your kids look up to you, whether your kids think so or not. Whatever you say or do affects them, whether it has to do with running or life. Don’t run away from your responsibility as a parent. Lead the pack!