Developing Healthy Mindset in Kids
Kid’s that are rooted in positive understanding of who they are can withstand what the world says about them. The world tells kids that to be accepted and loved they need to act a certain way, have the latest technology, wear certain clothes, play for a particular club, live in a certain subdivision, even have a certain hairstyle or hair color. The problem is that these rules for being accepted keep changing, and they change quickly. Kids experience a great deal of stress trying to keep up. There is a phenomenon that this generation has of assuming a different identity based on who they’re with so that they are accepted. At school they adopt one persona, with their soccer team they are someone entirely different and at home they act in yet a different way. Imagine the sense of instability that a young person feels, being a chameleon of sorts, always having to pretend to be something different. At some point they lose their sense of identity, the person that they REALLY are under all the pretenses. This phenomenon is a reality of today’s world.
When asked, almost all Olympic athletes attribute their success as an athlete and as a person to their parents and their coaches. This gives us a powerful and important role in the development of young people and we must take it seriously because along with that comes a great responsibility. If we know that kids who have a strong sense of positive identity, not only survive but thrive, and the world is causing them to feel insecure in their identity, and we have the influence that mature athletes say we do, then we are called into action. But what does that action look like? What can we as parents and coaches do to affect and influence young athletes to have a strong positive self-identity?
It’s actually quite simple; love them and accept them for who they are right now. The most effective parents accomplish this by expressing their love and acceptance daily in different ways. With respect to sports however, what this means is never commenting on your kids’ performance in any way. It’s extremely hard but they keep from making corrections or showing any sort of disappointment or anger, even if it’s directed at a referee, coach or another athlete. The worst thing a parent can do for their young athlete is to give them performance advice. Kids are super-sensitive today because of the phenomenon created by the world to always seek acceptance from others. Parents have the privileged role of being the stable and unrelenting source of love and acceptance despite anything your kid might have done. Your kids want to know that you’re there only for them, they have your attention AND you enjoy everything about them regardless of how many goals they score, how many turnovers they let go, how fast or slow they are. Your kid might be the best player on the team but he needs to know that you love him for who he is and not for how he plays. Your daughter might be the weakest player or middle of the pack, but she equally needs to know that you love who she is, where she’s at today. So parents, it’s as easy as being aware of your actions and reactions while watching them play.
The role of the coach is to instruct and set character examples and he is most effective when he can deliver the instruction in a manner that corrects performance without tearing down the character of the young athlete. Very skilled coaches are exceptional at showing athletes a better way to do a skill or play a game while actually building their confidence. It’s a matter of building relationship by affirming the athlete in a meaningful way by accepting her as a person. Too often we show athletes the opposite; if you score goals or perform well I will be happy and I will like you. When the athlete feels safe and accepted by a coach first, that coach has cleverly afforded opportunity to give a lot of performance corrections and the result is an athlete who feels confident in who they are AND improves rapidly.
And this leads me to mentioning anther role of the parent; be intentional and involved with selecting programs with good coaches for your children. There is too much at stake.
It’s a winning combination when both parents and coaches are affirming the value and acceptance of their athletes. Sports are just a great way to develop character and self-identity in a young person. When the sport is gone, the only thing remaining is the person.