by Elizabeth Wickham
After talking with parents of Olympians, I discovered they don’t push their kids. Instead, they put zero limitations on their kids’ dreams. They are encouraging, hopeful and never say it’s impossible.
It’s easy to put limitations on our own dreams and our kids’ dreams, too. Maybe we’re protecting them from disappointment? If we let our kids discover for themselves what they are capable of, and don’t interfere in the process, there’s no telling what they’ll achieve.
Here are my tips for not limiting our kids’ dreams:
Develop All Strokes
Kids may say they’re not good at breaststroke or some other stroke. Surely, swimmers have strengths and weaknesses, but encourage young kids to swim all strokes. Later in their swim careers, preferences and natural abilities will develop, and their coaches will guide them. But when they’re young, don’t let them limit their possibilities. Encourage them to be well-rounded and not specialists.
Never Laugh at Dreams
Every young swimmer I interviewed for our club newsletter had the same goal: to be an Olympian. It’s an honorable dream and one we shouldn’t criticize or deflate. It’s okay to dream big. I’ve overheard parents say after missing practices, “It’s not like they’re going to the Olympics or anything.” Well, by saying it out loud and not getting them to practice consistently, they won’t be going to the Olympics. There are many dreams to support like getting to the next level—whatever that level may be—making it to JOs, swimming in college, etc. Let it be your child’s dream and not yours.
I told my kids that they can do whatever they want, if they put in the hard work. No class is too hard, no goal unattainable—if they want it enough to work for it. No, it might not happen right away and be harder than they’d like. In truth, they might not make it. But, if they’ve tried their best and fallen short, they won’t look back and say, “If only, I would have…”
Don’t Protect Them From Failing
It’s natural to protect our kids from disappointment. But, if that means making their dreams smaller, we’re not allowing them to realize their full potential. It’s okay if they aim high, end up short, and experience frustration and failure. It’s all life lessons. They’ll learn the value of perseverance and continue working towards their dreams.
In what ways can we encourage our kids to dream big and not limit them along their journey?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.