It’s not easy for parents to let their children learn to become independent. Here we’ve spent years being the rock that they lean on, and so when the time comes for them to move on and experience the world on their own, it’s often stressful for both parent and child.
Sport is a wonderful way to encourage independence in children. With sport, kids are able to venture out into situations which are separate from their parents while still feeling that familiar support. In addition, the clear boundaries and structure provided by sporting activities reinforce that comfort. Structured activities are supportive for childhood development because they allow kids to explore new activities while still feeling safe and secure.
Essentially we’re giving them room to have success in a new environment while still providing for the failures and insecurities that they might experience. In truth, it’s the moments in which they do have disappointment, rejection, and loss that are actually most beneficial in supporting kids’ independence. What they soon discover is that they are able to deal with negative situations in addition to positive situations, holding their own, thereby giving them strength and a sense of accomplishment.
Parenting for independence is created by offering a supportive parenting style. Here are some action steps that parents can take in order to foster self-confident children:
- Promote your child’s independence by providing choices and supporting decision making within clear boundaries.
- Sport allows kids to make their own choices and to make decisions within clear boundaries. This all happens away from the parents, letting kids forge their own way.
- Exert minimal pressure on your children to act in a certain way.
- Kids can decide where to go within the sporting environment. It’s also important that parents not force them to stay within an activity that they don’t enjoy.
- Strike an appropriate balance between structure and independence.
- Here again we find that sport gives kids balance. This is really true of team sports, where kids must learn to balance their own aspirations with the needs of the team.
- Help children accept personal responsibility for their decisions and learn from their own mistakes.
- When children participate in sport, they’re learning that they must continue to pursue the activity even when it gets tough.