Parenting: Will you still love me if I don't win? (cont.)
The parent's responsibility to a child is twofold -- to teach them to love themselves. One thing is that you do have to give them structure -- it's okay to notice certain strengths and talents they have, and guide them in that direction. As they hit the teenage years... ask them and talk to them more about how it is -- and how they feel about it?" Is it fun for them? Would they like to try it? In some cases, they may be reluctant, and then nudge them into it. And sometimes they'll really like it. And maybe they're frightened of something else, but they want to try it. What's important is to use your senses -- the biggest thrust of this book is that the more sensitive and open you are emotionally, the more you'll be able to see who your child is. So its okay to guide them, and talk to them about how they feel about where you're guiding them. And as they get older, turn over and help them to begin making their own choices. Talk to them about things like commitment -- trying their best, but as you talk with them, you initially set the structure. They need that. And if you really love them, you'll do that. And what you do, is that you begin to let go of that structure -- give them boundaries, and talk to them how they feel about it. Sometimes they'll rebel, and not for positive reasons. The first child so often feels that they have to be successful... and they'll also be the experiment for the parents. The second child will often feel that they have to compete. The third child is usually the baby, and you never know what they'll do sometimes, because they don't want to be like the first two.
Andersonn: They may rebel in different ways, go along with the programs, be wonderful children, rebellious... and you have to work with each one, knowing that they're trying to get your love, fit in, *and* stand out in the family. You have to work with each one differently, knowing that one may want to rebel at 14, the other at 11... and there's nothing wrong with that. Everyone wants to treat their kids the same -- don't ever do that. Treat them individually, and love them individually for who they are. And you'll find that means more than anything, because they're not the same... they are who they are. That's what it means being a parent -- just go with it, and change if it doesn't work.
Billy_de_WebMD: "What do you do when it seems like your child is overly fixated on athletics?"
Andersonn: There are several things that may be going on -- they may put all their sense of worth into it, and see themselves as an "athlete." And they have to do well and everything that way. The second part is that this is what their identity is, and they've latched onto it to give themselves some sense of identity. That's what happened to me when I was young -- and it's not wrong, and they need that identity. Another thing could be that they're getting away from other problems -- sometimes there are family problems, and they may become fixated. And other times, they may become fixated because they're scared of not doing well... and do it out of fear. There are many things... you can talk to them, watch them ... doesn't necessarily mean its unhealthy. They'll go through stages of growth. Some years, it's everything... and other years... They're discovering themselves, and sometimes things will get out of balance. If you feel it's way out of balance, then talk to them. It's not bad -- other times, it's just where their friends are. It's all okay. Except when it seems way out of balance, and that's when you have to talk to them, That's where listening is so important.
Moderator: I have twins who are both great athletes but one is always a slight step behind the other, one is on the A all star team the other on the B, the b child never really feels a sense of accomplishment because of the success of the other one.
Andersonn: There's a certain loyalty -- that's a psychological difference at times. The younger one feels really bad at being better than their older one, because they don't want to hurt them. There's a certain competition they have, and yet there's a natural order they see themselves in. And there is a certain comparing, but they do that because they want to protect their own role as the younger one. On the other hand, it's natural. You can't avoid that with twins. It's okay, and at the same time, talk to them about how they feel. Sometimes that competition and comparison is how they see themselves, and they can grow out of it. The parent's job is to be there for them, and help them get through. If they're feeling hurt by it, then it becomes a negative... and then talk to them about their worth, and help them see their own talents that are separate. Oftentimes, they're very different -- they'll feel differently and they'll want that space. And to have that twin -- who compares herself as less than... then tell her about the things that have nothing to do with the other twin. There's no competition on her ability to have friends, etc... and remember, it's about balance.
Moderator: Why do parents insist on high expectations for their children when it comes to sports?
Andersonn: Achievement in America is meant to be the most important thing -- it's the false ideal that achievement is the end of life. We've lost the concept that somehow, there is this thing about doing and having, and when people are younger, it's about doing... and older, it's about having. And they leave out the part about "being". It's a balance between the three. When the parents put that high achievement standards on them, they associate their success... generally speaking, with high achievements. So if their kids achieve high, then they're successful parents. There's nothing wrong with wanting to achieve high, as long as it's not hooked up with being a better parent. The idea is that you also, the parent, are not perfect. Nor should you be. You're not supposed to know everything, and it's okay to be concerned. But your kids are not your achievements... and you are not their achievement. We're here to give kids life, and if they're going to achieve or not, they need to find that themselves. It's not to push them into thinking that this is something they need to do, but to give them boundaries where achievement is part of that.