BUILDING THE PARENT-CHILD BOND
by Coach Ronn Wyckoff, Author/Producer
“Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring and integrity, they think of you." Author unknown
Sports are a great metaphor for life. The dynamic of how we deal with our participation in sports mirrors how we live our lives. As an international basketball consultant, coach, teacher, lecturer and author, I’ve participated in, and been witness to, just about every representation of the human spirit—the Good, the Bad and the ugly!
While I’m writing about basketball here, I am also speaking about every youth sport or activity children enter, and the parental support necessary for the experience to be a positive one.
Supporting the child is a very important parenting choice. Whether they are just beginning to learn the game or they are already on a team, the child needs a parent’s unconditional support. It’s not just about basketball either. It should be across the board for any activity a child shows interest in. It may not even be something the child seems to have any natural affinity for. The child just needs to know they are okay, that they are being given the opportunity to explore and expand, and that the parent is supportive and interested in whatever the child is attempting.
While the parent is watching and supporting the child, the child is “watching” the parent. The child has an awareness that records every action and reaction, every word of encouragement or discouragement. All the while, the child is measuring whether they are okay or not okay in the parent’s eyes.
It’s not just the parents, either. Every adult in a child’s life offers profound opportunities for modeling behavior. The child’s choices, now and throughout life, are being formed and influenced by the adult behavior they hear, see and perceive.
When I work with coaches or parents, I always encourage that they bring this positive role modeling and image creation into their work with the children. Guiding youth to be the best they can be requires that coaches or parents be aware at all times of how they’re being perceived.
John Wooden, the great coach of so many championship teams at U.C.L.A., once wrote that the person you are is the person your child will become. This can be a parent’s legacy or a curse. It all comes down to choices and the results we have from those choices.
Being there for the child, being excited, encouraging and positive are all examples of supportive qualities. If we make the choice for the child to play basketball, is it also the child’s choice? So many times parents, even when well meaning, push their children to perform. Perhaps the parent thinks the child would be good at the game. Maybe the parent is trying to fulfill an experience they didn’t complete and now wants to live it vicariously through the child. There are also parents who may have played well and enjoyed the experience and want the child to enjoy that experience too.
Whatever the reason a parent might have for getting their child into the game, the decision needs to be made with the child. Don’t force them into something they aren’t ready for or willing to work at. Talk about choices with your child. Do they want to play? Are they willing to do what it takes to learn the game well? Help them get started, if that’s what they want. Find a program like those at the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, recreation leagues, church leagues, etc. Many times, children are sampling activities to see if one resonates with them. Allow them to see if they have a fit with basketball. If they get started and find it’s not for them, allow the child to withdraw from the game with grace, without any negative feelings surrounding the decision. Be just as understanding and supportive here as you would be if they continued.
Here’s another important consideration. Who’s teaching the children, and how much do they know about the sport or activity? If it’s you, the parent, do you have the words and skills to teach the game correctly? Do you have the patience? Are you willing to commit to the time and energy it will take to teach the game skills?
Parents have the opportunity—the gift—to be able to help direct the child’s future. Before that can happen though, the parents must be willing to change many of their old beliefs. That’s not an easy thing to do. We resist anything that challenges our current beliefs and our established comfort zone, yet the only constant in life is change.
Positive change will require faith in a whole new shape-shifting for a future where children can come to accept that there is no need to feel superior to or need to be better than anyone else; A future where they recognize and accept the Oneness between people rather than separation; A future where we realize that there is enough of everything to make us happy and fulfilled; A world without the need to compete but where they can co-exist with cooperation and mutual respect. History shows that our only constant has been our collective behaviors and they haven’t made the world a better place.
Golly! Sounds really drastic, doesn’t it? What are the alternatives? Adults can continue the current way of thinking and acting where everything is about competition and to be better than others. We can continue this idea of separateness. Which kind of future sounds better for our children?
Years ago, in his book, Think and Grow Rich, Napolean Hill defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. Our formal education system presents a perfect example. The American Education Industry continues to foster differences and competition as they attempt to control and manage our children. This leads to more of the same—a sense of separation, frustration and even alienation.
Even the practice of assigning grades leads children to feel different, inadequate and incompetent. Comparisons and constant evaluations reinforce the sense of separation that dominates our disconnected culture and it follows them as they grow older and continue the insanity.
Separation is brought about by thinking we have to out-perform, be better, or be more than someone else. This escalates world wide, from local levels, to state and national levels, where governments perpetrate unspeakable horrors upon others, and even claim that God gives them the right.
Wouldn’t a sensible alternative be to introduce into our schools the concept that being the best we can be is enough? Do we want for our children what we were taught, what we inherited and what we have perpetuated? Isn’t it insane if we do not bequeath to our progeny a new and higher way of thinking, doing and being?
Children have so much pressure to excel, pulling at them from so many directions. The whole dynamic of self-worth is currently determined by the attitude of our competitive society that the child must be better and be able to beat someone else. Sadly, if they don’t measure up to our winner-take-all mentality, they are caused to feel that somehow they’ve failed. The loss of self-worth can last a lifetime.
If we can teach our children to celebrate our differences rather than to denigrate them; If we can teach them to live without hate, anger and fear by teaching them to come from a place of love, how might we change their future?
Yours in Sport & Spirit,
Coach Ronn Wyckoff