Every Winner Starts As a Beginner
Recently a friend told me how her daughter had begged to go to a very expensive summer camp. Then, six days into the camp, she wanted to leave because she “didn’t like it.”
Maybe something similar has happened to you—your child has come home asking to take lessons in music, Karate, acting, singing, French, gymnastics, or one of many other activities. Before you commit the time and expense, you want to be sure he or she will stick with it. But you don’t want to deny your child the opportunity to learn a new skill, build his or her self esteem, and maybe even become the next big sports star!
Sometimes it works out—your child masters the activity and you feel good that you made the sacrifice. Other times, your child is ready to give up after just a few short weeks, or less. You remember the promises, the money, the time, and the enthusiasm, and you beg your child to continue for a few more weeks to “give it a fair chance.” You know it probably won’t work, though, because your child has already decided it won’t.
- Your child may have expected it to be a quick and easy process to learn, practice, and master a new skill. Perhaps no one explained that learning a new skill is full of difficulties, and that while in the learning process, kids are likely to feel embarrassed, frustrated, and maybe even stupid. Maybe your child saw someone else learn the skill easily, while he or she struggled to master basic tasks. Maybe he or she was laughed at, or the teacher became impatient. For some kids, saying “I quit” is their way of getting out of an uncomfortable situation.
- Some kids won’t let themselves be less than perfect because they think they’ll look bad to other people, especially their parents. So at the first hint of failure they’ll just stop. To avoid having your kids fall into this trap, help them understand that everyone starts out as a beginner and that the only way to improve is to stay in the game.
- Maybe your child is burnt out. Children today participate in so many different activities—it may be too many. If there is too much on your child’s plate, and he or she wants to give up on something normally enjoyable, it may be a good thing to quit. That’s an important lesson in itself—to learn to set personal limits.
What to do?
First, examine your own motives as a parent. If your children’s success has something to do with your own aspirations, don’t let that influence their decisions. Consider what is right for your children, now.
Second, make sure you help your children remember the sometimes-painful process of being a novice. Encourage them to talk to you about both the good and the bad as they get started. Ask, “What difficult feelings did you have today? Did you feel embarrassed? Are you able to talk with your teacher or coach about your questions and difficulties?” This may help them understand the importance of setting realistic expectations for themselves and knowing their limits.
The bottom line: Help your children understand that every winner started as a beginner.