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Tuesday, 31 July 2018 11:07

The problem with making excuses for our sporting children

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Have you ever made an excuse for your child? Could you have made an excuse for them when they have behaved badly, failed a test at school or been on the wrong side of a sporting contest? I certainly have and it is a very difficult thing to manage.
 
The problem is that by making too many excuses for our children, we run the risk of not allowing them to reflect and grow in their moments of adversity, and it is in these moments that character can shine and be developed.
 
It is so important that we resist the urge to make excuses for our sporting children. We are there to provide support but we must allow them to go through this process.  It is vital that they can learn the right way to go about their sport and competition themselves.
 
Children often see their parents as the ultimate role models and will take the lead from our behaviours. Does making excuses give them carte blanche to start finding plenty of their own whenever the situation may arise?
 
Dented pride can often be one of the main catalysts in making excuses for our children as we feel the need to protect and justify what they have done so it is equally as important as adults that we understand that our children’s athletic capabilities do not define them or us as parents. If we are able to live by this, excuses will become a thing of the past……
 
The aftermath of matches and competition can be the worst time. Your children are feeling vulnerable and we are all desperate to make them feel better. They may be walking back to the car head down, holding back the tears or even sat in the car on the way home sobbing.
 
You feel desperate to help and want to do the right thing but actually an acknowledgement that you feel their suffering, even periods of silence can be a vital part of them rebuilding themselves. We need to let them know it is ok to be upset, allow them quality time to tell us how they are feeling and simply be there for them emotionally, whilst listening and trying not to interrupt too much.
 
Many of us may be tempted at this stage to say things like ‘its only a game’ or ‘you did your best’ – both statements are lovely things to say and are probably true but to your child that game at that point in time is vitally important to them and by saying this you may be negating the importance that your child places on such a thing – something moving forward that may not be a good idea. Doing their best was not necessarily what the child wanted, they may have wanted so much more.
 
We need to find ways for our children to understand that failure is all part of the learning process. When we blame other players or the coaches for decisions that they have made, we are actually teaching our children to also look to blame others. This can ultimately lead to a bad attitude from your child athlete if it is allowed to develop and this type of behaviour becomes more ingrained.
 
So what can you do to help in these darker moments?
 
By taking a back seat you give your child the opportunity to grow, reflect and learn from the experience.
 
If all we do is provide lame excuses, we are fundamentally stopping our child from growing. Maybe when the dust has settled and only you know how long that may take with your own child, ask them some questions that allow them to reflect?
 
Could the disappointment have been avoided? Is there anything differently that you may do next time? Could you have asked someone for some extra help?
 
It could be something that could be corrected in training, something they could have done differently in their preparation or quite simply the disappointment of defeat or a performance that fell well short of their expectations. Remember, this can happen to the best teams and athletes in the world, no matter how well they sometimes prepare.
 
Perhaps using some of these examples from the TV and explaining how some of our role models bounced back in the face of adversity may also help give your child the courage and confidence to know it is ok to fail. Disappointment will certainly pass, it is just part of the learning process that they will go through.
 
Sigmund Freud pointed out that defence mechanisms like rationalisation (in this case, excuses) are normal and often serve useful and protective purposes.
 
Unfortunately, competitive sport is not a normal situation, and the useful purposes they provide do not include winning matches or engendering respect from opponents or bystanders.
 
Successful players resist making excuses by consciously recognising the real issues on the playing fields and use the rational parts of their brains to keep themselves on track.
 
Let’s teach our sporting children to handle life and sport by manoeuvring our own wins, losses, successes and failures with grace.  As the ultimate role model that we are to our children, maybe these are the best actions that they could possibly see!
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