Whether you have a boy or a girl, chances are there is plenty of athletic activities available right in your own community that caters to their age and skill level. Athletics and sports in general are a supportive part of growing up and help kids set the foundation for socialization, team work and a feeling of pride and accomplishment in themselves. The trick is to start them out with a non-competitive attitude and allow them to develop their own likes and dislikes for activities. Just because you dream of having a football or softball star, doesn't mean your child will follow suit and pushing them in a direction they aren't interested in (or good at) causes insecurity and pressure.
Too many parents become involved in their children's sporting events as if it is a direction indication on their own ability. It's as if they are reliving their own childhood or making up for something they didn't do by sitting on the sidelines pressuring their child to do better or be the best. When you involve your kids in sports it is vital to be empathetic, patient and realize that they will come into and out of their athletic abilities on their own terms. There are plenty of kids who are intimidated by competition among peers who crumble in the face of a adversity. When they get the ball, are open for the shot, have a chance to kick the goal – they become paralyzed. Frustrating to watch, but parents should encourage confidence rather than game time success. By pushing too hard, parents will most certainly cause a negative feeling in their children about sports.
In elementary aged sports it is difficult to set the "real" athletes apart from those who just want to participate and hang out with their friends. The reality is there should be no divisions. Engaging in a team sport helps them to develop confidence in others and themselves and they see themselves as part of a larger picture. If your child is the one who barely moves during a soccer game or has never made contact with a ball when holding a bat – they should be commended for being out there doing their best and trying. It is also important to excuse typical gender roles and allow your child to participate in whatever interests them. Tennis, ballet or gymnastics may not have been your dream sport and you may personally feel ill at the thought of them – but YOU aren't the one doing it. If your child is genuinely interested for more reasons than to just please you chances are they will be successful in their own ways.
One huge aspect of involving your kids in sports is the ability it offers to make friends. Far too many parents have preset limitations on who their child can be friends with based on their shallow preferences of which parents they like or who lives in the nicest house. On the playing feel, all becomes equal. Whereas in school children are often separated by ability, chastised for not doing well and pressured to conform to the rules and regulations athletics are a more creative outlet where they can test their own wings. Sure, there are rules for each game but the bottom line, especially with young children and in recreational sports leagues, the experience should be fun! If they whine about going to practice, dismiss the thought of a game and sulk before or after games it is in your child's best interest to involve them in something else.
As your child gets older the competition will get tougher. The coaches will expect more and the entire goal of participating will be winning. That mindset is unavoidable and although not fashionable to admit out loud – it's the absolute truth. If your child grows up always feeling as though they are second best or unsuccessful they will lose interest completely when it really matters the most. The goal of involving your kids in sports early on should be to instill a love of the game, to keep them busy, to get them exercise and allow them to try things out so that they can find their niche in life. It may not be sports at all, but some day they will see the trophy on their wall and remember the year they played 7-8 softball or football. Whether the memories are fond or bothersome largely depends on the attitude of their parents. Involve your kids in sports and allow them to be the ones participating. If you make the whole thing about you, you will only turn what could be a positive and fulfilling experience into something negative.
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