As an Olympic medalist, aspiring teacher, and founder and director of Camp E.D.I.F.Y., Shelley-Ann Brown knows a thing or two about guiding kids in a positive direction.
Because there’s no better role model for being a strong, powerful, and yet indisputably feminine athlete than Shelley-Ann, I decided to mention during our recent interview that I had noticed at a certain age it becomes cool for girls to say, “I suck at sports”. Shelly-Ann has noticed this as well and it worries her, that for girls, it’s become a “badge of honour” to say they “suck at sports”. It’s something she believes we need to keep discussing openly.
Kids should have fun and stop worrying about the outcome
But she also brought up another dimension to the issue that effects both boys and girls, and it’s something she’s seeing a lot in her interactions with kids and, as parents, it’s something we need to pay attention to. Shelly-Anne believes today’s kids have become “outcome-based”. They are too worried about the end result, when they should be focusing on having fun doing the activity.
She said, “I don’t remember when I was a kid feeling that I should say, end of sentence, I’m just not good at this … even if I tried something and I wasn’t immediately successful, it didn’t mean I didn’t like that thing.”
Try, try, and try again
Shelley-Ann has noticed that kids tend to give up quickly if they try something new and aren’t rewarded with success right away, and it’s not just sports that this is happening with. She gave me an example she saw this summer at her camp. “I would say ‘let’s do this craft’ and [the kids] were like, ‘I’m not good at arts and crafts, I don’t like it.’”
Her response? “But you might like this one! I don’t like every craft. I love to read, I don’t love every book I read! And I love to be active but I do not – this is probably going to make me sound un-Canadian – but I’ve never loved hockey. But switch the sport and I’m there.”
Skills are transferable
Her advice to parents, coaches, teachers, and other adults that are witnessing this behaviour from our kids is to help them see connections between the various things that they can do. Jumping high in the air while leaping into the water at the swimming pool, for example, is the same as jumping high while on the basketball court.
Shelly-Ann would pay attention to the children at her camp and give them lots of encouragement. She’d say, “Wow, that running leap you took into the pool was amazing! You are so strong and you can jump so high!” Later, when they were doing another activity, she would remind them of what they had done: “Remember how high [you jumped] and how amazing you were in the pool?”
This helps the child realize that they can use their skills in different ways, and in different situations. For Shelley-Ann this is how we can help kids have fun doing the activity, as opposed to focusing on the end result.
In a world that focuses a lot on quick results and instant gratification, this is definitely something we need to be conscious of.
How do you help your kids enjoy an activity even if they aren’t immediately good at it? Let’s help each other with suggestions in the comments below.