Raising an Olympian: Why Allowing Our Kids to Fall, Makes Them Stronger.

Last year, I played PE teacher. I hadn’t taught in a classroom since before I had my own kids and wasn’t expecting the cultural shift that had since taken hold of both parents and school administrators. I walked into the gym in September expecting to provide fun fitness experiences and information that would be life-lasting. By October, I knew I had a literal fight on my hands. I had been called into the principal’s office consistently to redirect my plans. I couldn’t infer a child needed to improve their fitness since that would make them feel bad about themselves. As the weather chilled, I could no longer take them outside where they might get cold. I couldn’t use the fields in the morning since it would make their shoes wet. I couldn’t use the climbing rope since they might fall. I couldn’t use the trails because they might trip and fall on unpaved surfaces. I couldn’t insist that a child run, as they MIGHT have an underlying medical condition that MIGHT cause a problem. If a child’s face flushed or they breathed heavily, I was encouraged to have them sit out. I was called into question for children not being given A’s on their report card. It was offensive to suggest Pop Tarts and Lunchables should be replaced with healthier choices. It gave me a window into the environment being created for many kids today. Adults want to give kids a great life and do what’s best for them. They’ve created a calm, safe, easy, happy and….

… incredibly debilitating life for kids.

If I could have at least one do-over in parenting, it would be to have been a much more hard-core mom. In my quest to be the most loving mom, the one who provided as best I could, the one who would protect the hard blows, rescue, soften, make easier, I missed an opportunities to make them tougher. I could’ve strengthened my kids more, not only to handle elite levels of competition, but to thrive in real-hard-core-life.

Sports pyschologists have done research, but it doesn’t take a doctorate to figure out that one “IT” factor of successful people is their mental toughness.

So, do we just get mean? Nasty? Abusive? Is that what it means to be a tough parent?

Come on…. common sense, good judgement and balance…

It means that from the time our kids are toddlers, we need to become “velvet bricks”. It means to love them enough to let them experience the positive and negative consequences of the choices they make and the discomfort of new experiences. We need to allow them to take risks and feel the anxiety; stretch to feel pressure. It means working through challenges, obstacles and difficult things while handling distractions and interference. It means allowing them to feel the pain of falls, the frustration of setbacks, the anger of shortfalls, struggle of work and wrestling to figure solutions. It starts as they wobble across the room during their first steps and picking them up to go a little farther and progresses until they take their leap into adulthood as you smile encouringly. It’s only then, they gain the self-assurance and elation of their accomplishments.

Parents: Tough parents raise strong kids.

Toughness strengthens character, attitude and thinking needed to maximize potential.

Make it normal for kids to take appropriate risks and face challenges, work and figure out solutions to problems, resolve consequences, and make improvements.

Diminish externals and strengthen internals: don’t allow kids to blame or make excuses, but own responsibility for their effort and responses.

Focus on building the child, not the “star”, on the process, not outcome and responding objectively not emotionally as they develop.

Encourage with positive guidance. Help your child learn how to analyze situations and performance, determine how to improve, adjust, and move forward.

Acknowledge when it’s hard, but encourage them to overcome: “I know it hurts”, “I see that it’s hard.” “When that happens, yes, it’s frustrating..” “Yes, you’re sad”
“… but let’s move on and figure out how to make things better.”

When your kids face the hard things in life, to have equipt them with strong character, attitude and thinking helps them not just survive, but thrive in maximizing their potential.

Raising an Olympian: What Parents Can learn from Mikaela Shiffrin

“I enjoy pushing myself to new limits” – Mikaela Shiffrin

There are definite ingredients in people who live big lives and accomplish great things. The one ingredient that’s the trigger then the fuel is passion. They all were exposed to things at 2, 3, 4 years old and something clicked, powerfully, with one thing. For Mikaela, it was skiing and by the time she was 6 years old, she was training. But, it wasn’t her parents manufacturing a champion. They weren’t driving her to great heights. The passion was within Mikaela. As with almost every champion, she loves what she does. She loves the process of improving and repeating the details until she gets it right.

“You put your best into it, and at a point, you’re not even trying anymore, it just works”

Parents:

Be involved with your children. Explore the world with them from the time they’re toddlers. Let them try everything and anything especially when they’re 2-3-4 years old. Watch them discover their passion…

Then make your home a happy, fun, light environment to fan the flames.

Raising an Olympian: What parents can learn from “The Mom’s”/ Charlie White and Meryl Davis

“There’s no way we could have achieved what we’ve achieved without “The Moms”-Meryl Davis

Plain and simple. Children need parents unconditional love and support to maximize their potential. The greatest gift parents can give their child is to create the environment for them to succeed. It’s not complicated. They need rock-solid love that’s based on who they are and not on their performance. They need to know you believe in their potential. They need you to match their investment..and taking care of the unglamorous…in preparing the best meals, doing laundry, driving the miles, providing for their training, picking them up when they fall, crying quietly when they struggle, embarrassing them by showing up consistently, and beaming happily at their successes. They need you to build their character and teach them what’s most important about life. When parents are in their corner in this way, kids are secure and assured, enabled to move forward without fear.

“It’s hard to imagine getting to this point, without our moms. Time was taken away from other things they might want to be doing, but she wanted me to be able to chase after my dreams.” – Charlie White

“The Moms Life Lessons” :

1. You share the responsibility; enjoy the successes together and make it easier when it doesn’t go so well. (This is true of any partnership or team mentality)

2. You can fall and it’s not the end of the world. It’s okay to fall.

3. It’s okay not to win. (Contol the controllable. You can only give your absolute best. You cannot control the outcome. You will win some and lose some as the saying goes…)

4. Do what you’re doing right now the best you can and enjoy it. When you do that enough, those moments turn into success.”

Raising an Olympian: What parents can learn from JR Celski

<p = Z x C5 x E

Z = JR started skating as a family "group activity" when he was 3. He started competing at four years old. JR discovered his passion and natural talent in early childhood.

Parents: Get started doing fun doing all kinds of family "group activities" together. Expose your 3 and 4 year old to as wide a variety of interests as you can!

C5 = "We gotta make this work". To train, JR had to move across the country at 14 years old. It was difficult. 5 months before the Olympic Games, JR sliced his leg during a competition. It not only could have ended his career, but could have ended his life. The challenge made him realize who he was a human being. He fought his way back because he believes that the point of being an Olympian is jumping through obstacles. The key and the lock is "believing in myself enough, I can make it happen".

Parents: Accept that challenges are a normal part of life. Demonstrate to your children how to face adversity and work through whatever comes with a positive outlook. Find ways to "make it work" no matter what the situation. Build strong character and self-assured child.

E = His family believed in him. "He believed so much in himself, I believed in him too". "I never doubted myself. My mom is my backbone."

Parents: Adopt an attitude of, "I know you can…" with your children. Support effort and ethic within their control, not the prize or outcome that is not. Believe they can take one more step, go a little higher, do a little better. Expect them to be 1% better today than they were yesterday. Let them know you believe they can reach their potential.

Imagine a world where each of our children maximized their individual potentials and gave it as their gift to the rest of the world. Build your champion.