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Sometimes My Kid Needs a Cheerleader, Not a Coach

So perhaps in your younger, leaner days, you were a fairly competitive athlete or dancer. Even your significant other spent their school days on the football pitch or basketball court. That’s why it’s just so hard for you to fathom why your kid is so clumsy… Bless their little heart and over-sized feet.

You love them unconditionally but often find that passionate love translating into overbearing yelling coaching from the sideline of your child’s first football match or dance recital…. only to be met by crossed arms and defiant stares.

Yes, competitive youth sports are especially prone to bringing out the inner coach in many of us parents, but that isn’t the only domain of our kids lives where the cheerleader / coach dichotomy comes into play. I’ve personally struggled with how to avoid trying to teach my sons in every moment and have spent countless hours agonizing about what was best for them… when all they really needed sometimes was a cheerleader, not a coach.

The Real Impact of Coaching

With one of my sons in particular, it was clear that my coaching parenting style was only being met with resistance. I had admittedly sucked the fun out of my kid’s natural learning experience by suffocating him with my incessant need to teach him in every moment. I’d literally been trying to educate my son from the womb when all he really needed was for his mother to cheer him on as he independently made a name for himself. I began to realise that whenever I tried to coach my kid, I was not only putting immeasurable stress on him to live up to my expectations, but was also destroying his ability to be independent, explore and learn for himself.

I knew that my overly serious approach to parenting wasn’t working. I had to find a way to get him excited about learning again, and not just about the things that I thought he needed to know about. My son was more willing to learn when he was genuinely excited about something. When I forced something on him, sure, he did it reluctantly (and resentfully) but didn’t really learn anything other than the obvious… that I was controlling.

So Why Do We Do It?

Could it be that we feel guilt-ridden… fretting that we’re not doing enough for our kid and trying to overcompensate as a result?

Is it the influx of well-meaning but sometimes intimidating parenting experts that have stifled our own ability to just trust our guts when it comes to our kid?

Or maybe, just maybe, we only want the best for our kid and think that coaching them is the fastest track to them getting into that esteemed private school…. when that’s really not what’s best for them or what they want.

Learning to Let Go, Relax and Cheer On!

I’m not saying to entirely let go of coaching your kids. There is a happy medium somewhere in between cheerleading and coaching. The key for me was to learn to let go and relax by trusting in my kid’s ability to learn naturally. I learned to respect my son’s innate ability to learn for himself and have confidence that he’d be able to find his own way without me having to constantly feel in control and impart my wisdom on him. It was amazing just how little respect I gave him, just because he was a kid… he’s much more street smart than I give him credit for!

Learn to celebrate your kids the way they are, just like cheerleaders keep spirits high even when the situation isn’t favourable. I began to notice a significant weight lifted off my/his shoulders when I stopped trying to over teach, got out of the way and let him explore and learn for himself. I was still there to cheer him on and stepped in and offered my guidance only when necessary. He was much happier and so was I. Our relationship had taken another turn for the better.

Final Thoughts

Tell us – what’s your parenting style? Are you your kid’s biggest cheerleader or tough-loving coach? Perhaps you’ve managed to strike a happy balance between cheering them on while coaching them throughout life? If so, how do you avoid trying to teach them in every moment and help them to be independent? We’re ready to hear your experiences in the comments below. 🙂

photo credit: skeeze via pixabay cc

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