6 Tips for Swim Parents About Letting Our Kids Take Ownership

by SwimSwam 19

July 28th, 2015 Club, College, Lifestyle, Opinion

Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham

Here’s a comment from a swim mom on “5 Tips for Swim Parents to Encourage Their Swimmers:”

“It is really important that the children take ownership. My daughter began swimming at a young age, and I had a goal which was to make sure she was fit. Now, I realize, after she turned 13 years, that she has the fitness bug. Now it is time for her to decide if she wants to place her energy into swim or another sport. Of course I cried over the possibility that she would not pick swim, but I am happy to know that whatever she decides for the sport of her choice I need to support her 100 percent. I hope you will write an article to elaborate on #2.”

Here is Tip #2 from that article: Remember that the sport belongs to your child. Let them take ownership and responsibility for their success.

How do we ensure that our child is “owning” their sport? What do we mean when we talk about ownership? I remember my daughter talking to her club coach after a race where she added time. He asked her about the swim. She knew exactly why she added time. “I didn’t give myself enough time to warm up,” she told him. Although the coach wasn’t thrilled with the swim, he did compliment her for taking ownership. She didn’t make excuses. She knew she had done less than her best to prepare for the race.

If your children take responsibility and ownership, then they most likely have intrinsic motivation and love swimming. We can encourage our kids to make good decisions, but it’s essentially your child who has to get to bed early on a Friday night to have a good Saturday practice, or want to get out of bed before school for dawn practices.

It’s okay for us to share in the ups and downs and feel excitement and disappointment with our kids’ swimming. But, what can we do to promote ownership? Mostly, I think it’s what we should NOT do. If we constantly talk about swimming, focus on times, and compare our swimmers with teammates, we are going to crush the fun and their consequential ownership of the sport.

Here are five tips on what not to do if you want your child to take ownership. I’m sure we are all guilty of some of these. We need to watch out and check ourselves if we’re going overboard.

  1. We take over. It’s easy to get overly involved by attending every workout, competition, and start coaching our kids. We use “we” and “our” when discussing their swims.
  2. Our kids are perfect. We overestimate how much talent or desire our kids have. We have unrealistic expectations for them, which may lead them to feel like a failure.
  3. We burden our kids. If you’re putting the weight of your happiness on your kid, your child is going to feel too much pressure. It’s no longer going to be fun for them if they fear you’ll be sad and disappointed if they don’t perform well.
  4. We live vicariously through our kids. Do we measure our success and failure with how well our kids perform? Are we more elated after a good swim, than our child is?
  5. We put a price tag on swimming. We tell our kids how much it costs in terms of money or time commitment. Or, we expect a pay off in the form of a scholarship. Let’s be supportive and not make our kids feel guilty for their commitment and dedication.
  6. Don’t set goals. We can suggest or encourage goal setting. But, if we want that Junior National or Junior Olympic cut—that’s our goal. Not theirs. Let them set their own goals and tell you what they are. Then you can share in the joy when they reach them.

We want our kids to have fun, be motivated and take ownership of their actions and outcomes.

What do you do to encourage your swimmer to develop ownership?

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.

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Fly fish
8 years ago

Easily to say than done! I don’t believe all the 12 or 14 old kid are mature enough knowing what they want. They probably all prefer to play Vedio game all the time if they could. They do need to be pushed and motivated by parents. After all swimming is not as fun as playing baseball or basketball, it was a very disciplined sport!

She Loves Swimming
8 years ago

Great article! Will need to print this and post it everywhere as a constant reminder. It is hard not to get swept up in all of it, and do everything on the “do not do” list, but we try continuously to let her take ownership of her sport, especially as she gets older.

8 years ago

Wow this is a great Article…
True to the core..Goodness I am a real perfect Mother with my attitude, towards my children!!!
Yes they need to set their Goals!

Swim Giggles LLC
8 years ago

Thank you for a great article. Although we fully agree with all points, we will read it again and again!

8 years ago

im guilty to most of it ?. My son is 17, he’s on his last year of swimming and as much as I want to take over I back out just because of respect to him and giving him more responsibility. BUT my 12 year old? Oh my! I will have to read this article over and over again. Thank you for another great article!

8 years ago

I do all of these and regret it every time. The truth is that just like my swimmer is learning balance, boundaries and ownership of her goals, I also am learning…how to guide a child to HER goals in a realistic manner, how to be a supportive and loving parent without becoming one of “the crazies” and communicate effectively with someone who hasn’t fully developed that skill. It won’t go perfectly and I’m going to make these mistakes along the way. I will take ownership of that and hopefully she will help guide me in my goal of being the awesome mom that she deserves.

Reply to  TheDriver
8 years ago

It’s important to understand, in the overall umbrella of child development, that kids develop at different rates. This includes their physical and athletic development, as well as their emotional development. Some kids are more advanced than others in their independence and assertiveness; other kids need more guidance. Kids are all different.

Texas Flyer
8 years ago

Of course I am guilty of most all of these. But I’m sure we can all agree that most parents are responding directly to expressions/statements/energies/interest level from the child athletes themselves? What parent doesn’t pour their energy, time, money and such toward encouragement and guidance, especially in a sport that pays off in longevity (basically we’re going to be able to swim into old age).

YES, it’s “The How” encouragement, support, (and like it or not) “push” is exercised is what’s at issue here.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m big on “practical dreaming”, because when my daughter talks about wanting to go to J.O.s….sorry, I’m not going to stand by and let it be an empty proclamation. If… Read more »

8 years ago

This is a great article. I struggle as a coach with the idea of ownership with my swimmers. Something that I think is missing from this list is: don’t supply your child with a ready list of excuses when they don’t reach their goals. (e.g. “Coach didn’t have you practice enough turns.” “The starter was bad.” etc.)

I have a few parents that do that, and without fail it is their children that are the ones who lack focus and/or commitment in practice. If you give your child the opportunity to take ownership, and they fail to follow through, don’t supply them with the excuses that they need to blame someone else for their failures.

Related to that,… Read more »