Sometimes as parents, we tend to believe that we know exactly what to say or advise our kids on; especially when they are younger. Because of this, we are often blinded to the possible negative effect our words and actions may have on our kids despite the good intentions of our words and actions. We meant well, we just didn’t have the approach right.
A case in point was over this past summer with my youngest son J.T. During warmups at a dive meet J.T. was getting upset and a little whiny (at least I thought at the time) because he was having difficulties doing the inward tuck dive. Now this is a dive he has done plenty of times before, competed with it, and scored well with it.
I began to tell him that he was psyching himself out, it was all in his head, that he had done this dive numerous times. To just stop worrying and complaining and just to the dive. He walked off to keep trying, without success.
It was a just a little bit later that my wife, the wise person that she is, pointed out to me that my approach had caused him to mentally shut down and not listen to the directions that the coaches were trying to give him to help. I had made it worse.
I felt bad. I knew J.T. often responded this way when he was feeling frustrated about something. I hadn’t noticed the signs of his mentally shutting down and doubting himself.
I had to swallow my big boy parent pride and called him over. I explained to him that I was only trying to help, but that my approach was wrong and that maybe in that instance I didn’t know how to tell him what he needed to hear (Boy, that is a hard thing for a parent to say to their kid, because so many times our kids think we know everything – that is until they become teenagers, then parents don’t know anything 🙂
After I told J.T. that I had been wrong, I apologized to him. I told him that I was sorry and that all I really wanted him to do was to just try his best. He smiled at me and said, “That’s OK dad. I forgive you.” That was followed by a big hug that I think at that moment I needed more than him.