3 Parenting Lessons I Learned from Making My Son Do Something He Wasn’t Good At

Recently I made my son do something he hated. Something that was hard and did not at all come easy to him. Something that for 14 straight days ended in him crying and telling me that he wanted to quit. This was especially hard for him because he is the type of person that is naturally good at anything he tries.

You know that type. That person growing up who you couldn’t stand because they were good at everything and everyone liked them. If you can’t think of anyone, then it is because you are that person. And most of your childhood friends probably harbored a twinge of jealousy because of it too.

Now my son is that kid. He is athletic, smart, friendly, kind, and well behaved – and this especially drives his older sister nuts!

3 Parenting Lessons I Learned from Making My Son Do Something He Wasn't Good At | Houston Moms Blog

So when another mom in the neighborhood asked me if I would want to sign Seth up for the neighborhood swim team, I said, “Sure! He would love that! He loves sports!”

Well, turns out he didn’t love it. Nope. In fact, he pretty much hated. And he was terrible at it.

Listen, I know as moms we are supposed to encourage and cheer and deliver “We just want you to do you best!” speeches, and I did all that. Like, Academy Award winning performance level speeches. But, the kid was just flat out bad. So, for a split second I considered giving in and letting him quit because anyone that has ever participated in summer swim team knows it is not a light commitment. It is an everyday, for at least an hour, for 2.5 straight months type commitment, and for a working mom of four kids, I’m not sure it would have taken much to convince me to pull him out. But, I didn’t. I stood my ground, and boy am I thankful I did because I learned some pretty great parenting lessons in the process.

  1. I don’t really support my kids, not really. I wanted to talk about this lesson first {mainly to get it out of the way} because this is not one I am proud of in anyway; in fact, it is embarrassing. During the first week of swim team, I found myself not being as vocally supportive in front of the other parents like I am when he is playing soccer or earning an award at school. Instead of screaming my head off like he was the next Michael Phelps, I would make excuses or justify his performance. While {thank the Lord} my son did not notice this, I did. I realized that my level of support was conditional on his performance and success. Not success defined by his standards, rather everyone else’s standards. I want my kids to know that if they give it their all, I don’t care if it takes them 20 seconds or 2 minutes to make it across the pool. That when they turn around and look up into the stands, their mama is going to be losing her ever loving mind, radiating with pride for them. Because at the end of the day, I am invested in them as a person – not their performance.
  2. Letting my kids fail is sometimes the most loving thing I can do. As I began to probe in to why my son didn’t like swim team and wanted to quit, it didn’t take an investigative reporter to figure out it was because he felt like he wasn’t good at it. I all of a sudden realized that in our attempts to give him the best childhood possible, we had never let him fail. So when things got tough, he wanted to bail. And, again I’m not a rocket scientist, but I am going to go ahead and venture out to say that the neighborhood swim team is probably not going to be the only thing that he fails at in life. One day, he is going to get passed over for a job. Is he just going to never apply for a job again? Or what if waking up to go to an 8 am class is really hard, should he just drop that class? That is not how the real world works. And while, yes, I want my son to have great confidence and think he can be anything he wants to be when he grows up, I also have to be aware of the fact that I am not just raising a seven-year-old little boy. I’m knee deep in the process of raising a man, and the most mature thing any man can do is get up when he falls down.
  3. Empathy is learned. Let’s face it — we are naturally selfish people. Motherhood really helps punch selfishness in the throat, but it doesn’t take away the fact that we are innately mostly concerned with what is most important to us. And, I know you know this is true because right now many of you are raising innately selfish toddlers. They’re cute, but they’re basically all about themselves. You never had to sit them down and teach them how to be selfish. No, you are tirelessly trying to work and teach them to be aware of the needs of others around them. Well, that is empathy, and empathy is the antonym of selfishness. Nothing teaches empathy like failure and hard work. That is exactly what my son has experienced over the last 2 months. Even at age 7, he has been much more aware of other kids struggling during swim practice and is sure to tell them they are doing a good job. We have also had many talks about defining success and what are the important characteristics to have when playing sports, and how I would not care one bit about his first place finish if he went on to loudly announce to the other kids that he beat them {which he was a victim of often during swim season}. I have noticed how he stops to take the time to help little brother more often when he is struggling with something, instead of getting frustrated with him and giving up on him. He has experienced being on the bottom and how much work and patience it takes to come back to something day after day … much more valuable than the backstroke.

Well, he cried and struggled, but he didn’t give up and came back day after day. And you know what? He got better and even was able to swim every stroke by the end of the season. And by some miracle, he qualified for the Meet of Champs in 2 different strokes. He was never the best, but I realized that should have never been the goal because what he did gain was so much more valuable than any ribbon or medal.

3 Parenting Lessons I Learned from Making My Son Do Something He Wasn't Good At | Houston Moms Blog

Also, shout out to these ladies who were such rockstars in coaching the kids on our team! They spoke some much needed life into my little man, and I am so grateful for their investment.

3 Parenting Lessons I Learned from Making My Son Do Something He Wasn't Good At | Houston Moms Blog

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2 Responses to 3 Parenting Lessons I Learned from Making My Son Do Something He Wasn’t Good At

  1. Elizabeth Warren July 20, 2016 at 9:10 am #

    Love this! Great lesson and so well written.

  2. Jennifer Adlakha July 22, 2016 at 7:40 am #

    Important lessons for parents and kids. Love the bit about empathy. So true! And, also something we could use more of in today’s world. I’ve heard it said, ” Allowing you to fail is a privilege too great of which to rob you.” For the reasons you illustrated, this is something more parents shouldn’t be so afraid to do more often.

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