I loved The Brady Bunch as a child, but after re-watching a certain episode I love it even more as a parent. It featured middle daughter Jan Brady (the family's perpetual loser) trying to discover if she had a natural born talent...for anything. Predictably, she failed at many different things (ballet, tap dancing, being a drum majorette, acting in the school play), much to her teen despair. Mom Carol Brady said to husband Mike, "Poor Jan. She's really miserable. I hate to see her going through this." To which he grunts unsympathetically "She'll have to figure it out."
I LOVED this. Today, do we ever let our kids "figure it out" for themselves? We constantly tell them they're good at everything, in a world where it's virtually impossible to fail a class, or having them participate in sports where no score is kept and no one ever loses.
On the show, it's Jan's sympathetic siblings who challenge and deliberately lose to her at a number of activities -- ping pong, Monopoly -- but of course she eventually discovers what they're doing, and becomes convinced she's an even bigger loser. Is this the risk we as parents take if we continue to prop our kids up with false praise, and an "everyone's a winner at everything" attitude? They quickly learn the truth about their talents when they leave the house for a post secondary education, or into the real working world, where discipline and criticism can be harsh. Preparing our children for disappointment and failure is one of the lessons we might want to have them learn at home, rather than from a disgruntled professor or angry manager.
American Idol is a great example of what can happen if you aren't honest with your children, and you send them out onto the stage, to fail. My kids are terrible singers. I am a terrible singer. Their father is a terrible singer. It's just who we are, and we all know it. They won't be one of those show contestants who are so painfully awful but are convinced they are the next Kelly Clarkson because their mom said so.
By all means, we should be encouraging our children for the things they are good at, and be their biggest cheerleaders, but let's make sure we're not cheering them on to great public failure. After all, not everyone can be a perfect drum majorette like their big sister Marcia.
The article was originally run in the Metro News.
Read Coaching Kids for Dummies. There’s no shame in admitting you’re a ‘Dummy.’ Starting with the very basics will give you a good sense of everything you’ll be dealing with, from fostering skills and promoting good sportsmanship to preventing burnout and dealing with irate parents.
Check out TLC’s comprehensive online guide to coaching your own child. It offers valuable advice about details that could be easy to overlook if you get caught up in the big picture – like making sure you’re familiar with the proper rules of play and determining if your kid even wants you to coach her team in the first place.
Be sure to separate your ‘parent’ and ‘coach’ roles. Psychology professor Shari Kuchenbecker recommends using a ‘Two Hat’ trick in her article Coaching Your Own Child: Attitude, Objectivity and Preparation are Keys. The trick can be as simple as stating that you’re taking off your ‘Coach’ hat and are now speaking with your ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’ hat on after the game. With your parent hat on, you can even refer to your ‘coach’ self in the third person to replay the game from a supportive parent’s perspective.
Remember your end goal is to do what’s best for the team – not ensure that your kid is the next Sidney Crosby or Mia Hamm. TLC warns that if you’re grooming your child to be a star athlete, you really shouldn’t be coaching her. After all, if your eye is on that kind of prize, how could you possibly be objective when you’re assigning positions and setting starting lineups?
Avoid treating your child differently from teammates – either by showing favouritism, or by being overly harsh to demonstrate that you’re not giving her preferential treatment. The article Balancing Parenting and Coaching – for Dummies points out that showing favouritism can cause teammates to resent your child, and ultimately make her a pariah on the team. Being extra hard on her, on the other hand, can cause her to resent you and potentially set back her progress if you’re treating her unfairly. Kuchenbecker recommends giving equal advice to everyone based on “observable actions” to avoid paying too much attention to your own child.
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