Guys, sports, and parenting series #8
As football players, we used to spend a lot of time in the weight room trying to get more power out of our muscles. Some of us spent more time than others, and while we did have some members of our team who went far in football, it wasn’t primarily their biceps that got them there, it was the strongest muscle in their body, their heart!
No amount of time in the weight room can substitute for passion for the game, for the desire to be better, for giving it your all, and improving yourself in ways that make for success. You know the kids I’m talking about. They gave it their best, and it showed. Their heart was totally in the game. They tackled with passion, they ran with passion, they worked out with passion, and they yelled with passion. Coach knew this secret to success and worked to strengthen that all important muscle of passion.
The kids with passion had a vision of them playing great football and they worked at it! That vision can take a mediocre kid and make something special out of them. Maybe they don’t have what it takes physically to make it to the pros, but they will do well at some level in football, and often they take that passion into life and do extremely well at something they love.
Many kids have a passion problem these days. In a prior article, we already talked about parents not allowing their kids to fail and succeed on their own and learn their own lessons. That is one passion killer. Another passion killer is expecting your kid to be good at everything and becoming critical when they fail. There is no way that we can be good at everything. Rather than focusing on failure, passion can be ignited when someone believes in us even though we have weaknesses and focuses on finding pursuits we love and can succeed in.
We can also kill passion by expecting our kids to fulfil our dreams instead of finding their own. We may project our dream onto our kids by telling them that everyone who wants to be successful needs to go to college (like we did). Our kids may have no desire to go to college and instead of finding their dream, they find themselves in a tug of war with us trying to complete pre-college courses that bore them.
Another passion killer is not becoming a student of our child. Each child is different and unique. We become a tremendous help to our kids when we understand their strengths and weaknesses and help them envision a future in which they use their strengths to be successful. How many of us as parents have pushed our kids to be good at X, or head for Y job and didn’t realize their heart wasn’t in it. We literally need to study them to learn and support who they are (Smalley, 1986).
From birth kids have a distinctive combination of temperament and abilities. One of our kids was incredibly decisive and had amazing insight into people’s challenges and what they should do. We worked as parents to point out this skill and envision what she could do with this keen insight. Today she is persevering through a long clinical counseling training program and is adding depth and experience to this innate skill.
It is all too common for us as parents to criticize kids for their weaknesses and short comings. Another daughter, with passion for animals and those who were hurting, wasn’t strong in getting grades. She wanted to go to nursing school, and the story was that to get in to nursing school she needed straight A’s. We didn’t focus on grades, however, we focused on her compassion and love of caring for people. She make it into and through nursing school without straight A’s because of her passion.
I talk to parents with kids that have lost passion. They have been asked and prodded for years to do things that their heart is not in and they have decided to spend their mental and physical time elsewhere. They sit in a classroom but they aren’t really there. In this situation often we as parents have lost influence and we may need to rely on a network of individuals (like coaches and teachers) that can gain our kid’s ear and inspire them.
The best path is to avoid this early by being a student of our child from birth, learning what they love, learning what they are good at and supporting them wholeheartedly in that pursuit whether or not it is our first choice. Capturing their heart will employ the strongest muscle in their body toward their success. In football and in life, Coach knew that focusing on what kids can do and giving them a vision for all the good things their passion and hard work can bring is a key to their success. Light a fire in their hearts Coach!
Smalley, G., & Trent, J. (1986). The blessing. Nashville: T. Nelson.