Parenting: Will you still love me if I don't win? (cont.)
Andersonn: I've had that question so many times -- there are pros and cons that need to be weighed on both sides. Can it be a valuable experience? Yes. Can it be damaging? Yes. What happens is that I go over both sides in the book, because it's such an important question. It's important that both the parents and the children can find a balance for both of them, where the parent doesn't give up their whole life for the sport also. You don't want a situation where the child feels that they have no life, although sometimes they will. The positive side is that when you have some, and I've worked with thousands, or total commitment to something, there's the experience you have of being totally engulfed in something, and that becomes valuable. There's a love/hate relationship with swimmers with their sport, but they love the friendship, putting it all on the line, because they're such at high risk. That in a balance, can be very valuable. When if not kept in balance, and the performance is more more more, push push push, and parents can't separate the success of their child from their own success, you have damage that can be done here. Children oftentimes don't survive it, because they're so tunneled in, they have no balance in their lives, and that becomes a negative for them. I talk to many of those kids, who have no life or identity outside of sports. When it reaches that point, where there's no balance, then it becomes damaging. It isn't necessarily that they should go to all the parties, do all the things, and that's balance -- it's a matter of keeping them in the sport because they enjoy it, the intensity... and that full commitment gives the child and parent something that no one gets when they do something part time. It's not better or worse, it's about what works for the individual. Some individuals need 3 days a week for soccer, and some that get more from being there 6 days a week. I recommend they talk to the child, the spouse, and weigh the pros and cons of what they see in their minds, and if they want help, then I recommend this book because I go over the subject in several ways -- in the pros and cons, not to at least consider who are the other teammates and parents involved, because that can be very supportive or damaging. There's the beauty and positive side of being very involved -- when I talk to college students who look back, they loved being with their family. Even though they didn't talk about things outside the sport, they had something in common they shared, and time goes by quickly from when your child is ten, to when they reach 16. And there are too many kids hanging around the malls with no contact with their parents at all. Sports is a safe, drug-free atmosphere (tentatively speaking), and you can achieve something that has to do with fun, friendship... if it's done in a positive way. We're talking about a balance, and paying attention -- I was that way, and I know many people it works for, and those it doesn't work for.
Moderator: At what point should parents consider getting professional help to talk to their kids?
Andersonn: When it reaches the point of tremendous anger and rage between the two -- when there's hurt being done, and when there's pain and inability for the parent to separate her emotions from the child's emotions. When there's a child crying out, and oftentimes they do. Getting help emotionally -- and they cry out without asking for help, that's what I mean by that. Try the other parent -- sometimes the other parent can approach the child more successfully. If both parents are having trouble, then suggest a counselor, even though kids are frightened of them because they think there's something wrong with them if they ask for help, and that's not true. Professional help can be wonderful, and you should try to get someone that you know has had experience with, or you feel comfortable with.
Moderator: What other outlets do children typically find for emotional security?
Andersonn: Friends are one. Children from 10-12, even writing, and teaching them and encouraging them to do that to share their emotions, and those that want to share, to talk to their parents. For a parent to always offer... a "do you want to talk about it?" Not demanding it, but always offering... that can offer a great deal of emotional security To know that the father and mother care enough to offer, even if it's 2 years go by before the offer is taken up, then it'll give a certain amount of security for that teen.
Moderator: When you talk with adolescents, what is a common complaint in regards to their relationship with their parents?
Andersonn: In adolescents, the thing they want the most is to be understood. With children, the thing they want the most to be loved. That's between 11 and 12. The key in loving a child is to touch them, hold them, and give them gifts. With an adolescent that changes, loving them is understanding them. One way to love them is not to necessarily believe them; they can say hurtful things and not understand how much it hurts. They don't know how to deal with their anger or confusion, so give them space. They can be hurtful, but they mean it in the sense of the moment, but they don't really mean it, and to be able to step back and say that it hurts, and talk about it, but give them space about that. They'll get older and realize, "my god," what did they say? Adolescents have a heck of a time being able to think and feel at the same time. To know that, that they have that difficulty... and what I do is try to work into how they feel, and draw them out, which is easier for me than a parent. And when they can stay on that, and you can help them a bit... and ask if they feel this, or suggest an emotion, that can really help.
Moderator: How can I be a better listener?
Andersonn: I actually give a whole series of questions in the book about that -- self-tests. One thing is, are you always giving advice to your children as opposed to listening to them? Is it always your way instead of "our" way? Are you doing something else while listening to them? Do you look at them and wait for them to finish, or do you finish their sentences for them? Are you interested in controlling the situation? In each one of them, you can take and go into depth with them, and look into your own way of relating. A mother asked, "My daughter never listens to me, and I never listen to her. So what do I do?" So I asked, "Who never listened to you when you were growing up?" Her answer was, "This is not about me!" And yes it is... it's totally about her. So start with the source. If a child is feeling you're not listening to them, find out why. Normally what they're really saying is that you don't understand them. There are times when the parent has to draw the line and say how it's going to be -- you still are the parent. And don't be a best friend -- kids don't need friends of their parents... they need parents. You won't be able to understand or listen to them as friends -- they need guidance. Sometimes you need to draw the line, and other times you need to really hear them and what they're saying. The book goes over this, because it's an important issue, and not something I can give a snap answer to. And it needs introspection from a parent's point of view, to look at their agendas and motivation on how they hear the kid; a lot of it will go to their own relationship with their parents. It can be done; you close your eyes and see what you want to do. That's visualization. Focused, you can see yourself playing the way you want to play -- usually, you won't -- it can be done beforehand, but can be done before breaks, and there's no wrong way to do it. If there's any right way, put it like this -- it needs to be done with feeling. When you're visualizing and talking to a child about visualizing... they're seeing the end result. There's a whole chapter on this -- the key is that they need to feel intently. That's the key to make it work. What does it feel like? -- that's the key. The more intensely they feel, the more it impacts the subconscious. Your future self is who you're becoming -- it's that future out there that you want to have happen. Some of them will be low futures, and some will be high, but we want to send energy to where that feeling comes through, and send it through that future self... of what you want to become. As you hold that, it's similar to creating a goal, but that's an intellectual choice which has power, but to feed that choice and support it, when you visualize with intensity, you give substance to that goal in your subconscious -- anything you give energy to, you make real. And that'll become you. That's the only way you do it -- You put your best foot forward.