Identity: We have the power to shape our children's identities.
Updated: Nov 6, 2018
“When we are very little, we learn how to feel about ourselves and about life by the reactions of the adults around us.” – Louise Hay
I read this quote the other day and it caused me to pause and reflect for a moment on how I have reacted to my own kids. Recently, I was confronted with this watching my 4 year old daughter play soccer.
I know that most of you reading this have probably had a similar experience to mine somewhere in your child’s athletic career. This is the first year my daughter has played soccer. I have been looking forward to this moment for a while.
I played soccer as a child and still do as an adult. I love the game and I have these crazy dreams of watching my daughter play soccer in college or beyond. I know, pretty silly.
However, those dreams are there no matter how much I try to get rid of them.
At her soccer program, they spend the last 20 minutes of every practice doing a little 3 vs 3 scrimmage. I know practice is important, but I was really excited to see her play some soccer against other kids.
I have played with her at home on occasion, but I wanted to see how her skills translated to some real competition. Before the scrimmage started, she told me she wanted to score at least 2 goals.
I smiled and thought, “Humility, what a great quality to have.” As the scrimmage started, I noticed it might be more difficult than I thought for her to score those goals. Some of the other girls were just faster and better on the ball and they seemed unstoppable.
Soon my daughter started getting tired and it was time for a break. I gave her a little pep talk in hopes she would get motivated to start scoring those goals we talked about.
During the next scrimmage, I began to watch as my daughter did almost everything except for get the ball and score goals. She spent almost a minute trying to comfort one of her teammates that was crying and tried to bring her to me so I could help her fix the problem.
In addition, she tried chatting with one of the girls on the other team, she fell down and spent a considerable amount of time examining her scrape, and she kept coming over to me saying she was tired, thirsty, and needed a break.
Needless to say, all of this was happening while the other team kept on scoring goals. I slowly felt my excitement begin to morph into a deep sense of disappointment. It sounds completely ridiculous, but I could feel my soccer dreams for my daughter slipping away.
At one point (this is embarrassing to say) I even leaned over to my wife and said, “I don’t want to come out and do this every Saturday if this is what’s going to happen.”
That night after my kids went to sleep, I took some time to reflect on why I was taking this whole thing so personal.
Why was I so disappointed in a 4-year-old girl who had never played soccer in a group like this having a difficult time?
As I thought about my soccer experience as a kid, I do remember my dad coaching me. I remember him being there for every game shouting instructions to me on the sideline. Another thing I remember, whether it is completely accurate or not, is a look on my dad’s face for most of my playing career that screamed disappointment.
I know for myself, and for most kids, that disappointed face can get translated into “I am a disappointment.” This is a pretty universal deal when it comes to dads and their kids, just look at Hollywood and you will find movie after movie addressing this issue.
As parents, we have got to be cautious of the messages we are sending to our children. They are looking to us to help shape their identities. They feel that we know them the best, so our assessment of who they are is probably the most accurate.
From now on, I hope the face I show my daughter is one of encouragement, acceptance, and pride. Next week, I will share a few steps parents can take to transform a moment like this into a positive experience for both you and your child.