How parenting is like being an athlete

Letting my kids play and be kids.

I read a post on Facebook on our swim team’s site that had some great advice for swimmers but I believe it extends to success in other aspects of our lives as well, including parenting.

Here’s what I read on the Piranha Swim Team’s FB page:
“The path you take to get to the next level is a unique experience and may be longer or bumpier a ride at times than others. Common denominators of athletes with long term success: aiming high but with realistic steps, not reaching a goal results in more determination, focusing on your own progress compared to you and not others, and believing in your support system, training and team. Patience and perseverance will be rewarded at sometime when you do these things.”

How do those points apply to parenting? Substitute being a parent for the athlete.

We can aim high but with realistic steps. As a parent, my objective is to raise kids who become independent, successful, happy and kind adults. For example, to raise a person who is independent doesn’t mean throwing a 10-year-old out into the world to fend for themselves, but to allow them room to fail and learn from their mistakes. It means teaching them the skills they need to function on their own, like cooking, cleaning, living within a budget, etc.

Yes, we want to aim high and we have great expectations for our kids. But we need to keep in mind that any goal is the result of small steps along the way. My husband once told me, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

IMG_7214Not reaching a goal results in more determination. That was true for both my kids. I think swimming helped them develop this trait which can be called “grit.” My daughter would get frustrated when she missed a cut for the next level, like junior nationals, and somehow she’d turn that into motivation to try harder the next time. In parenting, we can have days where nothing seems to go right. It’s knowing that the next day will be full of promise and new opportunities that keep us slugging along.

Focusing on your own progress and not others. When my kids were young they were in a small private school and the parents were competitive, as were the kids. It’s natural to compare how your child is doing grade-wise or in sports to other kids—even how well liked they are. I remember Valentine’s Day in my son’s fourth-grade class when boys and girls came in with elaborate gifts. It was painful for me to see presents stack up on a couple kids’ desks, while several kids had nothing, including my son. Finally, a present or two arrived from his friends.

Believe me, nothing good comes from a parent comparing their kids with others whether it’s their grades, test scores or athletic ability. It puts pressure on your own child and can encourage feelings of jealousy or disappointment in themselves.

Believing in the support system, training, and team. Our families and friends are our support system and my husband and me with our kids make up the team. I trust in our day-to-day “training” to reach our goal of parenting happy, successful and kind adults. Together we’ll get there. Mine are well on their way. Remember to have patience and persevere when things are less than perfect or downright difficult. Also, everyone’s path is different and some people’s journey to the next level may be bumpy while others are smooth.

How do you view the journey of parenting?

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