Ok, let’s be real for a second: Is it just me or is parenting a constant battle between wanting your kids to stay little and squishy and pushing them onto their next achievement? And it starts early! At just a few weeks old, there’s nothing like flashing that pic of your little one rocking tummy time to anyone who has two seconds to look. And that’s just the start…
Particularly with your first child, it’s like every new milestone is a goal to be reached as quickly as possible. You’re leaning without falling over? Great! Let’s head to the park and get you in a swing. Sitting on your own? Slide time! Walking gets boosted to running, and running to toddler sports… and well, you get the idea.
None of these are bad things – we love celebrating our children and every success they earn! But sometimes these little races can become competitive – particularly when you look at the parents and other children surrounding you.
In our tumbling world, every milestone is huge – as is the competition that comes with it. And it’s tough, because, on the one hand, competition is what we do! We want each of our gymnasts to master new skills, compete, and win. But on the other, we need to remember that each child learns at their own pace and will master skills at their own pace – and that safety and confidence must remain the foundations along that journey.
Along the way, remember – and help your athlete to remember – that, cliché as it may be, comparison is the thief of joy. It doesn’t matter that their teammate is mastering back handsprings; it does matter how they personally are working to master the skills at their level.
Help them to recognize their own achievements and talents. All athletes have strengths, but not all have the same strengths. Hand in hand with not comparing their own progress with others’ is being able to spot their own strengths and to be proud of their own achievements. We are by nature our own worst critics, so as their parent, you have the prime position to help them identify the positive.
Encourage them, always. Let them know that you’re proud of them and note when they’ve done something impressive. Be genuine about your compliments, and remember that it’s okay to acknowledge an off day – but always follow it with something positive.
Success here isn’t about how quickly you can get to that next level or how many tricks you can master. It’s about growing – physically and as a person. If they keep practicing and maintain focus, they’ll eventually get there. Don’t push them to “go down the slide” before they’re truly ready; instead, be their support along the way so that, when they are ready, they do it safely and with smiles.