I think all parents would agree that getting children into playing sport has many positive benefits. It keeps them fit and active; encourages social interaction and teamwork; builds confidence; and promotes independence.
Studies also show that kids who play sport are less likely to become obese, abuse drugs and alcohol and perform poorly in school. Learning to compete at a young age helps prepare kids for the demands of adult life including the ability to cope with both success and failure.
Above all else playing sport as a kid is heaps of fun!
So what if your daughter or son seems less enthusiastic or motivated than you would like them to be, or is not giving it their all while playing? As parents it can be hard to know how to approach the situation without being too pushy and we often find ourselves asking the questions:
Should I push my child to play sport?
How much should I push them?
How do I push them in a positive way?
Here we will offer some suggestions and guidance on how you may wish to handle this difficult and confusing situation.
Should You Push Your Child To Play Sport?
The first thing you need to look at when trying to work out if you should push your child at sport is the reason you are doing it. Are you doing it for them or for yourself?
Maybe it was your dream as a kid to play at the top professional level of your chosen sport. A dream that was never fulfilled. If you are trying to live out your childhood dream through your own child and this is the motivation behind your pushiness and not because your son or daughter really wants it for themselves, then the answer is a definite no.
If instead your child is showing interest in a particular sport, then a little encouragement can be a positive thing. Sometimes a child may want to play a sport but can be quite shy or apprehensive to try something new and challenging. If that is the case, then some positive nudging in the right direction is what they might need.
It’s also important that kids learn to stick at things and see them through. If your child commits to playing a sport but wants to quit after a couple of games then it’s okay to push them to finish out the season. Teaching kids not to give up easily is a great life lesson, especially if they have other teammates relying on them.
How Much Should I Push Them?
The answer to this question will be different for each child and parent. You know your child better than anyone and therefore will know how much pushing, or gentle nudging your child will need and more importantly can handle.
Kids need to learn that it’s okay to feel uncomfortable now and then and this is when parental nudges are necessary. It’s important that they learn to step outside their comfort zone, try new things and work hard for what they want.
Trying and learning new things can be scary but when your child gets a taste of what it’s like to reap the rewards of their hard work, then hopefully it will ignite their own motivation to push themselves to succeed. You can’t push your child to be motivated, this has to come from within them.
It’s okay to push your child to take the first step, to have a go at something new and challenging, to try their very best and not to give up easily. However, be careful not to push them too hard that they end up hating the sport and resenting you. Always emphasise the importance of trying above all else.
How Do I Push Them In A Positive Way?
Pushing your child in their sport doesn’t have to be a bad thing, positive pushing can actually be beneficial to your child. Negative pushing comes in the form of comparison, bribery, nagging and shaming, whereas positive or constructive pushing looks quite different.
Here are some constructive ways to push your child in sport:
- While at home or the park, ask your child if they’d like to practice working on some skills or techniques of the game with you. If they say no, then accept it and don’t push it any further. Try this regularly without any pressure so they know you’re there for help and support.
- Make sure that you praise them for all the hard work they put in, regardless of the outcome. This lets your child know that you are proud of them for trying their best and that you love and support them whether they win or lose.
- Try to be at as many of their games as you can. All kids want their parents to be proud of them and your presence at the game will push them to try harder. It also shows your support for them.
- Asking the right questions shows that you’re interested in them without feeling like they are being pressured. How did you feel about the game today? How did training go? What is your goal in this sport? When your child talks, just listen and respect their answers, even if you don’t agree. Allowing them to open up and have their own goals and opinions will help build your child’s confidence and motivation.
Playing sport has many amazing benefits for children, so if your child is interested in playing a particular sport then by all means give them the opportunity to get involved. Show your support and encouragement and give a little positive nudging when needed but remember, as a kid, sport should be fun. If your child is having fun and enjoys playing without feeling too pressured then they are more likely to want to keep playing and will develop their own motivation to succeed.