Lately I’ve found that encouraging kids to be successful can be a tricky line for some parents, myself included. We are knee deep in the midst of swim team season for our two oldest girls and this year I have found myself to be very competitive as a parent. I want my children to succeed and do as well as they possibly can but today I realized that there’s a delicate balance between encouraging them to do their best for their own personal goals and placing too much of your own hope and pride within your expectations for their goals.
I want to be super honest because parents are competitive with each other when it comes to our kids and it’s rarely discussed.
Most parents have compared their child with other children and I think it’s natural to do so. It may not be the healthiest thing but it’s just part of life, especially when we were raised receiving grades and being ranked according to our performance in school. Parents started learning the art of comparison as children and it’s something we still tag along with us today.
We have two children on the swim team.
One child is having a very rough year after what we thought was a great year in the prior swim team season. This year though she can’t get her head in the game and has been disqualified from more races than she’s completed because she keeps swimming the wrong event or she just stop swimming half way down the lane for various reasons. Honestly I’ve found part of myself disappointed by her performance this year in swimming. Last year we really thought she would take this year by storm and blow everyone out of the water but she isn’t anywhere close. It has been heartbreaking to me and also to her as she sees her sister excel this year on the Swim Team.
Her sister is doing great this year. She keeps getting put on the relay team because she’s fast at freestyle and can really help catch up on time if they need it. This weekend she was invited to a special swim meet that you have to qualify with your times to compete at. I got to the meet just knowing that she was going to blow everyone out of the water and walk out of there with great standings. She did awesome but she didn’t medal. In the individual event she placed 32nd out of 65 kids. That’s still amazing considering it was 32nd place out of all the best swimmers her age in our area but there was part of my heart that was sad that she didn’t do better.
Let me take a minute to be absolutely clear: I am not disappointed in my children at all. They have extreme heart and have tried hard. Our child that can’t get her head in the game this season also is the one that got hurt and missed a swim meet and a lot of practice times. Yet she was back in the water sooner than she should have been, swimming and learning how to do it better. Several times this year we’ve had to sit down and talk to her while her eyes fill up with tears about why her sister is getting ribbons and placed on the relay teams while she is not. It’s hard. Her sister is working non stop on her swimming and diving and can’t figure out why she’s not winning every single race. They both have great loving and hard working hearts.
I am not disappointed with them. I have been disappointed however a little bit with myself. Why didn’t we put them in some private lessons to prepare them for swim team this year. Maybe I could work more and find the money to put them on the super elite competitive team so they would get first place. Am I doing everything I can to raise them to win?
And that’s the worst part because my job isn’t to raise them to win.
My job as a parent is to support them and teach them how to be great human beings. It’s not to pressure them on base their success on numbers and times that they crossed the finish line. That’s where I’m failing as a parent that somewhere along the way I let it become a number game instead of teaching them to love others more so than themselves or their personal achievements.
That’s where the delicate balance comes in. We need to teach them to have goals and reach them and if they want to be the next Michael Phelps, we need to help equip them to do so. But we can’t put our dreams or our aspirations onto them. We can’t make it a game of success based on our hopes but we need to still give the hope that they can succeed.
The balance is so delicate.
I’m not even sure how to master that balance but I think a large part of it can be accomplished by just listening. I need to stop occasionally and just listen to them to make sure that they are doing what they really want to be doing. I don’t want our kids competing in swim team if it’s truly not what they want to do.
I do need to listen for those clues that tell me that they do want to do more, or less, with what they’re trying to achieve and support them in it.
Most importantly I think I need to make sure that my goals for them are in check with how I want to raise my children; to be humans that give more than they are given. It doesn’t matter if they have a medal around their neck if they don’t have compassion in their heart. That’s what I need to remember and strive to by my goal daily.