Being a mindful Sport Parent
Being a sport parent/ soccer mom/ soccer dad or any parent whose kid plays competitive sport, is definitely something else. You feel proud and special once they achieve something, that probably most of the children these days are not too bothered about.
But at the same time, being a parent to a 10-15 year old sport kid is very tedious and tiring. And you never know what kind of behaviour would impact your kid's behaviour too.
Which is why, the understanding of mindfulness is not only for the child, but also for you as a parent of that sporty kid. How can you become a mindful sport-parent. Here are some take aways from the theories around mindfulness and parenting, applied to sport:
1. Be more aware of yourself and your thoughts
"How could you lose such an important match! It is disappointing!"
Ever said this to your child? It is a pretty normal conversation starter with a child who lost a close, crucial match. But imagine the pressure you just put on your child to win the next easy match as well. According to O'Rourke et al. (2011) parental pressure could have an impact on the trait anxiety of the player, also depending on the motivational climate (which is also created by the parents).
But being aware of your thought process and communication to your child could help develop a more motivational and a task-oriented motivational climate which could lead to lesser levels of pressure for the child.
2. Try not to label/ judge your child based on the performance.
"You are the worst tennis player I have ever seen"
I heard this, in one of the national level tennis matches I attended. From a parent of a 11 year old.
Yet again this is all about being more aware of how you think and how is it going to impact your kid. So the next step to being more aware of your thoughts is, being less judgmental about your child. Never label your child because of one performance.
This also means not saying this:
"You are the world's best tennis player"
after one single performance..
That is because labelling is harmful- to lower the self-confidence or to turn it into over-confidence.
Rather change the tone of communication in both the situations to:
Take a pause before you erupt your emotions, especially after your child has lost..
"I know you performed what you could at that moment.. If you want to we can sit together and analyse your match, maybe sometime later in the day?"
"That was a great performance indeed. Well done!"
Both adjectives in sentences aim at the performance, not at the kid.
3. Dont draw the kid into guilt/ your own dreams
"If you love me, win this match"
This is a trap and also a huge expectation pressure built on the child.
This is the child's game, your child's sport. You are a motivator, a spectator and an influencer. But this statement will clearly put the kid into a lot of pressure. It definitely wont allow your child to be mindful of the game at that moment.
Instead, help the child focus on his/her strategies by telling something like
"Practice your visualisation and see yourself being confident and calm, just like your idol Roger Federer"
4. Kill perfectionism; remove the idea of being mistake-free
My idea of being perfect is different compared to your idea of being perfect.
Similarly, help the kids know how to be perfect by talking to them about perfection, but not by putting in your idea of being perfect on to them. For example,
"How can you not put xyz into your kit. Now what if fghj happens"
This conversation happens right before the match.
It is ok, teach them the next time they pack a kit to make a list. At that moment just tell them that it is perfectly ok and just focus in the moment.
5. Allow them to analyse their own mistakes
Help them, but dont just make it easy for them by telling them their errors.
And to be honest it is not at all easy for the children to receive constant feedback (especially negative) from the parents who dont play their sport. Help them make a diary, ask them to write their own feedback. And also, do all this with the right intent. Not because you read it in blog. If the intent is write, the child will write the analysis inhibition free.
6. Practice mindfulness with your child
"Did you do your breathing exercise like the psychologist said??"
Hey parents, why not do it together whenever possible :) Especially the relaxation exercises. This in turn will help you out as a parent and also help your child become more relaxed and aware, and of course MINDFUL.