Lazy Parenting Hack - THEIR CHOICE (sort of)
How do you decide what activities/sports your child will do? What drives your decision when they are three? What about six? Ten? Fourteen?
Did you default to what you know and sign them up for the things you did as a child? I danced, did gymnastics, and skied as a child and ironically none of my children have done any of these. My husband had more variety in his childhood playing soccer, baseball, hockey & basketball.
Fast forward 30 years and my husband is a basketball coach and I own a cheer gym. All four of our children play basketball and 3 of them have done cheer. But they have also swam, run track, and played volleyball, sports neither of us really did seriously.
As our children got older, we made an effort to expose them to as many different things as we could hoping they would find THEIR thing. We encouraged them to be multi-sport athletes. We sought out sports and coaches who supported this. Eventually, we began to see each of them finding the few key ones that seem to bring them the most joy and satisfaction.
What about you? How does it work in your family? At what age do you (or did you) allow your children to pick their own sports/activities? What are the rules around how long they have to try it before they can say they don’t like it or want to change sports? Do you let them switch each year? Do you let them quit mid-season?
Recently I overheard an argument going on between a teen and a parent. The teen was speaking very loudly in an effort to embarrass her parent in front of the entire grandstand. The parent spoke softly in that “keep your voice down or else” kind of tone. The argument was an interesting one. The teen was adamant that she hated track and was mad that her mom “forced” her to participate. She was trying to explain to her mom that by making her do it, she was never going to try her best. Her mom was trying to justify why it was important. The teen was having none of it. She HATED it. She wanted to do other things.
What would you do in this situation? Track season has just started. There is a long spring/summer ahead. Do you force your child to participate in something they HATE? What if you “know” that it is good for them and think that while they may not seem to enjoy it very much, you are confident that if they just tried a little harder they would?
Now, while we are probably seen as a family on one end of the extreme with regard to how active our kids are in sports, we have tried really hard to let our children guide the way into telling us what they enjoy and don’t enjoy. But we have also pushed back when they have said they wanted to give up a sport. My son decided after years of playing soccer that he didn’t like it. We pushed back. We convinced him to give it one more year. He did. And then the following year he hung up his cleats under the agreement that he would try something else. One of our biggest motivations behind their involvement in sports is to keep them active. We don’t want them home playing video games, locked up in their rooms, or being sedentary. Playing sports while they are kids and teens is important to us. It is even more important that they see the value of sports as a way to manage stress and to be healthy. I get so much satisfaction when one of them sees that waking up early for practice makes them feel good after and sets them up for a great day. Adrenaline and feel good hormones are something I want my kids to get used to and crave. What better life-long skill is there than to see the direct benefit of using sports to manage their emotions and mental well-being?
BUT - they have to WANT to do it. They have to be excited by it and see value in participating. They have to want to wake up at 5am for swim practice or to go shoot hoops at the school. They have to want to plan their week appropriately so that their homework & studying gets done. They have to see the value in missing parties or events for practice. They have to buy in because I am not going to fight with them to do it. I don’t have the time, energy, or finances to waste on my kids forcing them to do something they HATE.
The fact that they get to do any of these things is a PRIVILEGE. They have to see it as such. It is our job to make sure they do. And when they do, magic happens. They see sport as an integral part of their life. As a necessity for their well-being. As an amazing thing.