I don’t know a thing about the parents of Olympic Gold Medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White, except of course, that they’ve gotta be crazy proud of their kids. It’s also safe to assume, because the two began skating together as young children, that they had tons of parental support. Did either their moms or dads pressure them to skate or push them to compete when the “kids” didn’t want to? I have no clue, but I do know that if Meryl and Charlie had hung up their skates at any time during the past 17 years, they wouldn’t have been in Sochi last night, thrilling us all with their exquisite and perfectly skated long program.
A few years back when Amy Chua was making the rounds with her controversial parenting guide, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, I was asked by the folks at Education.com to participate in a Tiger Mom Debate by writing a response to this question: “Should kids be allowed to quit?” If you really knew me, you’d probably not be surprised that I opted to debate for “yes” with qualifications. For example, parents should require children to commit to their new activity for a reasonable trail period. When our daughter was in 3rd grade, she excitedly announced she wanted to play the violin. We rented an instrument and signed her up for a 3-month package of semi-private lessons. Three months to the day she excitedly announced she was ready to quit. We said “Fine.” and threw out our special set of Practice Time earplugs.
The Olympics are inspiring lots of kids to try something new. Skiing, skating, snowboarding. (Curling?!) When kids are up for exploring a new activity parents should encourage and support them, provided the challenges are age-appropriate and the risks aren’t unacceptably high – as in “Mom, I want to join the crocodile wrestling team!”
Teachable Moments: If your kid has big dreams (or any size dream) encourage him or her to go for it. Provide a realistic sense of the work involved. If they give it a shot and decide “This isn’t for me” praise their effort and breathe through any of your own disappointment. Remember, your kids’ dreams have to be their own, not yours.