Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham
I’m definitely a “glass half full” person. I don’t like negative talk on the pool deck because I understand there isn’t a perfect team, perfect coach or perfect swimmer. When I’m at a meet and I’m around parents who aren’t happy and they’re vocal about it, I’m amazed at how negativity spreads like wildfire.
If our kids hear other swimmers complaining, they’ll probably have more than a few negative thoughts, too. It’s proven that so much of what we accomplish and our personal happiness has to do with our outlook. Being positive is integral to our kids’ success in the pool and in life.
Here are my parent tips on how to encourage a positive outlook in our children:
Avoid having them compare themselves with other swimmers. If they are going to do comparisons, have them compare themselves today with where they were a day, a month or a year ago. Have they improved in any way? Are their times faster than last year at the same meet?
Ask them to name something that went well in their day. It can be something at school, with friends, or in practice. By focusing on the positives, we can encourage a positive outlook.
Gratitude. This is a little different than an event that went well that day. It’s what are they thankful for in their lives. You can keep a gratitude diary and share what you’re thankful for, and suggest they do, too. Or, write on a white board what what you’re grateful for.
After meets on my daughter’s team, the coach has “team time” and asks swimmers to mention positives from the meet. It may be a win a teammate had or that someone cheered or lap counted for them. It’s outwardly focused about good things their teammates did. I’m not sure how you can incorporate this on your child’s team, but it’s something you can talk about after a meet with your swimmer.
Be a positive role model. How do we talk ourselves? Do we blame others when things go wrong? Do we get irritated or upset when life isn’t perfect? Kids pick up cues from us on how to behave. Most negative kids have highly critical or negative parents. They come by it honestly.
Create a positive atmosphere. I don’t mean you need to gush on and on about how wonderful your child is every moment of the day, but offer a smile, hug, or an attaboy when it’s deserved or for no reason at all.
Don’t put too much emphasis on performance. We want our children to know we support and love them regardless of their swimming achievements. Compliment them for good sportsmanship, being a good teammate and role model to younger swimmers on their team—as well as for their great swims.
How do you help your kids to have positive attitudes?
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.