How You Can Teach Your Child to Fight His Own Battles
One of the hardest parts of parenting is fighting the urge to fight all our kids’ battles. When they are young, it’s our job to love, guide and protect, but as they grow, we must let them learn to stand up for themselves. If you hang around a gymnasium, soccer field, football field, baseball or softball diamond -- you will see evidence of this parental struggle all the time. Whether it’s a fight for playing time, a conflict with a coach, or dealing with a trash-talking teammate, parents step in to do battle, not realizing that their actions may be hurting their kids more than helping them.
On many occasions it’s taken all the self-control I can muster not to step in with my guns blazing. And I have to be honest and admit that on an occasion or two, I did try to do battle. But I wasn't doing my children any favors and neither are you when you constantly charge in to save the day. In fact, the reverse it true. As our kids grow up, we hinder them from growing in their independence when we do not teach them to fight for themselves.
Here’s how you can help your child learn to fight:
This is where the lesson begins. When your kids are ready to tell you about their struggles, listen more than you speak. When my kids get in the car after practice the last thing they want is to answer a bunch of questions about practice. So one simple question about “how was your day” suffices until they are ready to talk. And once they begin talking, let them express their feelings without parental judgment.
Teach them how to confront
Discuss with them how they can approach the coach with a problem. My husband coached for 28 years and he explains that there are good and bad ways to confront a coach. The bad way is an approach like this: “How come I’m not playing more? I’m better than Joe or Susie!”
Encourage your child not to pester the coach about it either. Coaches do not like to be nagged! Instead, have them try, “What do I have to do to get on your radar?” Or “What do I have to do to get on the court/field more?” In this way, the athlete takes the responsibility upon himself to improve and fight. He does not come across as accusatory.
Prepare them for a long fight
Kids want to have everything now, including immediate victory and resolution to problems. But some battles cannot be won overnight; they may even be season-long. When our kids were discouraged about their playing time or their performance, we told them to keep fighting and continue working hard. I’d like to say that their persistence was always rewarded, but unfortunately not all sports seasons have happy endings.
I’ve seen my volleyball-playing daughter win the battle for starting libero by mid-season and I’ve seen my son struggle until the very last game with a basketball coach he could never seem to please. In both cases, our kids fought their own battle every step of the way, with my husband and I cheering from the sidelines.
Since our children were small, we’ve taught them how to fight their own battles. And now we are reaping the rewards as we see our two college athletes–one a senior football player and one a sophomore volleyball player–continue to stand strong in conflict.
Let them go, let them fight. Because long after the balls and bats and hoops start to gather dust in the garage, the life lessons your athletes learned as they fought their battles on the court and field will prepare them just a little bit more for the battles of life that lay ahead.