Large amounts of money spent on swanky football kit and boots, vast use of hair products to make them look like mini professionals and lavish praise being heaped on them by parents regardless of their performance. How much damage are we doing to our children and their long term development by fuelling their ego?
The big question is ‘Is it the child’s ego’ or ‘is it the parent’s ego?’
What started off as just trying to get our children involved in some physical activity has morphed into something completely different, the moment they show a modicum of ability parents are certain their child will become the next great star.
This is itself is dangerous, even more so when their progress is documented on social media for all to see. What happens at the point where they fail? At some point they will – it’s part or growing and learning.
Going back many years ago there was not as much organised sport. Parents used to drop children off and leave them in the care of coaches and go and do something for themselves. A lot of the sport was unwatched, players and referees were not shouted at and the whole experience was about fun and playing with your mates.
How many of us as families, now have our young people at the centre of the universe based around achieving something (however minor) in a chosen sport?
No budding young sportsman or indeed an adult elite performer should ever be satisfied with what they are achieving, once a challenge is completed they should be looking at the next step to improve further. The most current example of this in a solitary sport is that of Andy Murray who has worked tirelessly in the pursuit of excellence over many years and deservedly deserves to top the world tennis rankings. Once he became the best in Britain, he did not rest on his laurels, stop working hard and say look at me I have made it.
Instead he found the next goal to conquer the world rankings and I am sure now that he has achieved this that he will be looking to add more grand slam titles to his name as well as hold onto that ranking for many years to come.
As parents our attitude and behaviour to creating this type of sportsman is crucial if we want to see our children succeed not just in sport but also in life. It is about us creating a culture that allows a growth mindset in our children not just for sport but for everything they participate in.
As parents we need to create a society for our children that fosters this environment. Telling our child they are brilliant encourages a fixed mindset, a mindset that when the challenges become tougher and they no longer feel brilliant that many children just give up and fall by the wayside.
If however, we can praise effort and hard work our children will take this on board and learn from challenges therefore increasing their abilities and achievement in the long term as opposed to the short term.
We need to offer our children the challenges, we also need to see that mistakes are part and parcel of learning and we should see ourselves that mistakes are opportunities to learn and our children need to see it that way as well.
If we make a big deal of mistakes then our children will never attempt the same thing again, as a result there is no way they can continue to grow and improve as they will be limiting their capabilities.
Likewise, if we do nothing but fuel their ego at a young age their chances of long term success remain a long way from their reach.