Parenting a ‘Performing’ Child: Coping With Challenges
Most of us have witnessed the parents of a child beaming with pride as their 11-year-old progeny shoots baskets like the next NBA all-star. But what happens when your child is passed the ball and can only dribble off his foot? Or when the school musical showcases the extraordinary vocal talents of the Broadway-bound senior, while your daughter sings off-key in the chorus?
The age and temperament of your child, as well as an honest assessment of your own emotions and responsibilities, provides a prescription for how you can successfully address the difficult reality of a child’s performance skill levels that are simply not well developed, or won’t ever be. As a society, we have been inculcated with the notion that participation is superior to performance, especially for children of a young age, and that legitimate performance talents may only develop as the child matures. But at the same time, our society has also placed increasing emphasis on early identification of these talents and specialized training and competition at the earliest possible age. It is, in sum, a mixed message for many parents.
Most of us want to believe that our children can be the best at everything they do, but an inappropriate response from the parent can be detrimental to the child’s approach to new challenges. One of our roles as parents is to provide assurance, support and honesty, while imparting lessons of perseverance, commitment and the value of a work ethic, which is demanded by performance-based endeavors. Being fully present as a parent in this respect is critical.
Some children will naturally excel at particular sports or performance-based endeavors, while others may struggle. Each young child should have the opportunity to explore a diverse offering of activities in order to find what really speaks to him or her. No matter the apparent talent level, young children should be encouraged, but never forced to participate.
Critical self-assessments by young students ought to be refocused into communicating a sense of larger, more important life lessons. Extracurricular activities, including sports and the arts, enable children to develop vital skills and abilities that enrich their development as individuals. Emphasizing friendships and camaraderie is most important at this age (elementary), and certainly takes primacy over skill level.
Middle school develops into a very self-critical time for many students of this age, and as a result, parenting often becomes more difficult as children grow into young adults. But this is where, as parents, your honesty and continued support can be of great value.
Does your child really love this activity? If so, are there steps that can be taken to improve performance that only a parent can provide? When your child isn’t the best at an activity but greatly enjoys the effort, committing even further can boost his or her outlook on the activity and overall performance.
With continued parental support and motivation, many children will find a strength on which to focus and excel. #
Dr. Carole Hankin has served as the Superintendent of the Syosset Central School District for 23 years.