As appeared in the Frankly Fatherhood column of the October 2017 issue of The Mom & Caregiver Magazine
A few weeks ago, I overheard a mom encouraging her son at the sidelines of the soccer pitch. She said he was the best soccer player on the field and that he should be dominating the ball at all times. The cheering that followed was riddled with high praise and tips on how to conquer the game… and it worked! Her son played aggressively and scored more than the other kids. I held my tongue and willed for her to consider that the kids playing were only three to five years old.
It dawned on me that, in recent decades, much of our parenting focus has been on boosting our children’s self-esteem – and rightfully so! Kids with a healthy sense of self-esteem are better equipped in dealing with life’s roller coaster of emotions. They feel valued and important, and are willing to take risks. They are able to face new challenges, cope with mistakes and frustration, and take pride in their accomplishments. But, how much praise is too much? At what point does a healthy self-esteem turn into self-centredness, and a sense of superiority?
I believe it’s equally important that we instill our kids with a sense of humility. Humility is simply teaching our kids to think of others ahead of themselves. Humble kids are more aware of others’ needs and feelings, are grateful to those around them, and encourage others to succeed alongside them.
If we want our kids to do well in life, I think it’s important for them to recognize their own strengths and use those strengths to help others around them. It’s the basis for true leadership, for being part of a team, and for working collaboratively… skills that are highly valued in today’s workforce.
So how do we teach our kids to be humble? A quick google search helped me put together a few points:
• Consistent modeling – after all, we are their 1st teachers • Focus on the sport rather than accomplishment • Value your kids for all things not just achievements, looks and abilities • Volunteer with them • Teach them to serve others before themselves • Teach them to give thanks and to apologize • Teach them how to compliment others for their achievements
As my attention focused back on the soccer field, I could tell my son was trying his best and getting frustrated. After the game, I told him of how well he played and that scoring goals isn’t the only thing that makes you a good soccer player. We talked about how practice, being part of a team, and hard work are what makes you better. His response was, “I’m going to practice more so I can beat that boy at soccer.”
Sigh, I never said this would be easy!
Frank Emanuele, DCL Director