With every new year comes goals and resolutions to become better at something which, in turn, will hopefully help us to become better people. This year, lets resolve to be better parents to our gymnasts!There are a million ways to be better, if not the BEST parents to your gymnasts, but let’s just focus on 5ways that I, as a coach, find to be the most useful advice I give regularly to parents.
1. Don’t tell or ask your gymnasts to PRACTICE at home.
It’s just not a good idea. In their minds, practice usually equals CHORE. Who LOVES doing chores?! Instead, find ways to encourage them to
SHOW/SHOW OFF their skills to you and the family along with friends and neighbors. Especially for younger gymnasts, “showing off” tends to be fun and exciting! “Look what I can do! Watch me try again!” feels a whole lot different than, “How many more do I have to do before I’m done?”
2. Remember that gymnastics is often 90% mental strength and 10% physical strength.
Sometimes when your little one “just can’t do it” it doesn’t mean they need to go home and do more push-ups. As you encourage them to keep trying, also encourage them to think about their skills and fears logically. As questions like, “Do you normally get hurt when you try that?” and “what usually happens if you DO fall?” and “even the best gymnasts think skills are scary/hard at first until they do it a bunch” and remind them that their coaches will be right there to help. Being and advocate for their mental strength is often more effective than anything else-even private lessons. P.S. Don’t just say, “Be tough!” That’s almost worse.
3. Let your gymnast have a day off here and there.
WHAAAAT!? “It’s meet season!” ” I pay big bucks for lessons!” “She’ll fall behind!” You may be right and it may be hard to give in, but if your gymnast has a little bit of a say when she’s feeling overwhelmed, letting her step back and breathe a little will keep her from burning out. Gymnasts are prone to burning out easily, so its better to let them flicker a little (with a day off) than try to keep the candle burning by holding a match over the wax. If they love it, they’ll heat right back up pretty quickly. Gymnastics can be exhausting to everyone…and since she’s doing the work in the gym, a day out of the gym might recharge her batteries. Make sure you explain the situation to her coach, too.
4. Focus on the positive.
Maybe they didn’t score well or maybe they goofed off too much in class. Maybe they talked back to you or got frustrated and shut you out. Instead of pointing out what they are doing to upset you, step back and let them see that you’ve noticed good things they’ve done. “It looks like you’re a good friend to so many of the girls in the gym! I noticed they all love talking to you!” “I thought it was great how you finished your routine even after you feel. The fact that you smiled at the judges afterward surely gave you an extra point!” or “I’m so glad I was able to pick you up today! I’m always so proud of you when I see you working so hard!” Negativity sticks in their minds while positivity changes their mind. Correcting bad behavior is usually easier when more attention goes toward their
5. Let there be laughter.
Teach them to take things less seriously. It’s only a sport, you know. Gymnastics is not the only thing there is in life (shocking, I know!) and if they have a rough practice or a bad meet or a sour encounter at the gym, it doesn’t have to affect them so much. Teach them to discern between what’s important and what’s silly–and when the important things need attention, then find a way to make it something they’ll be inspired to work on. When something is silly (aka unimportant in the grand scheme of things) help them laugh about it and put it behind them. A greater bond can be made between the two of you by laughing together than by getting upset together over things that don’t really matter. Make it your priority to teach the difference between experiences and issues. Experiences happen to everyone all the time— issues don’t need to happen all the time. When they DO happen all the time, it just means drama…and no one wants more drama in their life. Everyone wants experience, though. So remember, as you begin the new year, try to be the type of parent that is positive, who helps their gymnast stay positive, and who sees the bigger picture! 2014 will be great if you decide it is going to be!