Take a small child to a putt-putt golf course. Play 18 holes, don’t use a score card. See what happens each time they sink a putt, even if it takes 12 tries? They look back at mom or dad to see if you are watching. You may not hear the incessant “daddy, watch!”, but they look for you after each accomplishment, each small victory. Approval. Encouragement. Don’t be distracted by scorecards and schedules to the point that you miss countless opportunities each day to cheer them on. Teach them to believe in themselves.
Take a step back from the line of fire. Don’t get so caught up in their actions that you miss their reactions. At a Disney parade when a small child sees a favorite character up close for the first time, don’t watch the character. Treasure the look of wonder on your childs face. When they catch their first fish, don’t let your attention be taken by the darn fish. Enjoy the look of accomplishment that glows in their smile. First time they swing the bat and make contact with a ball, shut up about how they can do it better the next time. Look on their face for a new look of confidence and triumph.
My three oldest kids have played three and four sports each. My youngest son, even though he has been encouraged many times to try a sport, has never tried to compete in any sport. Why had he never tried, in a sports-crazy family? An overheard conversation with another boy, “because I’m just not good at any sports.”
Ouch! And double ouch! Lesson learned. Encouraging someone to do something IS NOT the same thing as encouraging them to believe they can do it, to believe in themselves. I’m not a child pschologist by any means (but I’ve seen every episode of Leave It To Beaver and Andy Griffith), but I assume that kids are always looking to their parents for their response, for their approval, for their encouragement……….because they doubt. When we fail to chase away the doubt, it becomes fear, fear of failure I suppose. Fear leads adults to be frozen in place. Fear cannot lead our children to a life of “inaction”.
Recently, Kal finished a 5K race (his first, obviously). I was caught behind him encouraging him along the route, so I didn’t get to see his face when he crossed the finish line. Thankfully a dear friend captured a real treasure of a picture. The look on his face,
“Mom, Dad, I did it!”
Take care to notice and celebrate each small victory with your kids. Watch the looks on their faces. Look for daily opportunities to teach them to conquer their fears. It’s ok to fail………it’s not ok to be controlled by a fear of failure.