The most positive thing we can do in our children’s lives is, to be honest with them. As parents, we always want our kids to be happy, be positive and have a great outlook on life. As a coach, I can see a different side that I would never get to see as just a dad. Most kids dislike the fake positive façade they are often spoon fed and would rather hear the truth.
So many times I have been coaching a game and the kids are on the bench conferring with each other and calculating what the score is. I have seen so many empty smiles when they are awarded the same participation medal as everyone else. I have watched the confusion in their eyes when we tell them they are doing well, by supportive parents, but know themselves they are not. They ask me time and time again: What is the score? Did we win? How did I do? How can I get better? This insight has led me to firmly believe that to be truly useful, and for our kids to have a positive outlook on life, we must first be honest and realistic with them.
I know it might sound harsh and counter-intuitive, but I have gotten more positivism and enjoyment out of sports from kids when I have been honest about their true capabilities, their strengths, and their weaknesses. As much as we like to pretend that we can shelter youngsters from reality, kids are extremely observant and understand the reality of situations. In sports all kids know who the best player in the team is; they also know who the worst player in the team is. And in reality, the worst player usually knows when he is the one. They talk about it, but the beautiful thing that kids do is that they don’t talk about it to put the other kid down, but to help him and to make him better.
A positive outlook comes from knowing your limitations, figuring out how to overcome them and finally triumphing over them. I have seen that look of pure joy on so many kids’ faces when they are finally able to do something which at one point seemed impossible. I see their confidence grow, and positive attitude comes out of them. When they know they can overcome one obstacle, suddenly they realize that overcoming others obstacles is possible. I have seen teammates rally behind that kid and celebrate his accomplishment in a true, positive way.
Being positive is not about looking at the bright side of life like Monty Python sang. Being positive is about being realistic, taking the good with the bad and fighting for the fulfillment of accomplishing something hard. That positive energy is unbreakable, and kids relish it. The fake and fragile positivism we sometimes give our kids, in fear of seeing them hurt, well that one, the kids see through it, and even though they won’t tell us, they know what the truth is.