My daughter has been interested in dancing when she was very young. Still, at the age of 16, she dances a lot and enjoys her performing arts education. If you have artistic kids, then you would probably know the ‘pressure’ to train them and discover their talent early. This pressure comes from peers (peer students and peer parents whom we know) and also comes within.
I guess every parent wants their children to become somebody in the future; some kind of a big-shot in a profession. Ideally, it should be like LeBron James in basketball, Lady Gaga in singing, Elon Musk in technology and perhaps Steve Jobs in technology. With the help of the Internet, technology and knowledge, we, as parents are ‘eager’ to discover the talents of our children. This drives a fair bit of pressure for parents to do something and inevitably, the pressure comes down to our children.
When my daughter was young in her primary school years, she had two ballet classes each week. She enjoyed that. Under the advice of her ballet teachers, she started competing in dancing eisteddfods; put simply, dancing competitions. I remember she started around the age of 10 and did a few each year until finishing Year 6 at the age of 12.
While I was proud to see my daughter dancing under the spotlight on the stage, a competition means someone will win and someone will not. My job during that period of time was to ensure that my daughter enjoyed dancing, enjoyed being on the stage and had fun; a lot of fun. We didn’t care whether she won or not.
Why didn’t we care?
Well, dancing requires body movements and muscle coordinations. Children under 12 are still physically developing their bodies. Some develop well and early, while the others may be a bit slower. When a 12-year-old is physically better developed, then the child would be able to perform better than other children; often win a competition.
Winning a competition also requires training and practices. Depending on the level of competition, a child may need to go through some or a lot of training to win a competition. My wife and I didn’t want our daughter to go through this kind of training at an young age in order to win. We didn’t want her to lose interest because of all the training. Dancing is meant to be fun and a fun thing to do for my little daughter. However, if someone trains a bit more and perhaps physically develops a bit faster, then the child is very likely to win in a competition. In fact, in many competitions.
You may be curious as how often my daughter won in those competitions? Roughly 40% chance. That’s not bad for a kid who attended dancing eisteddfods for ‘fun’. As a life coach, I was not too concerned by the 40%, but I was quite concerned by the remaining 60% of competitions that she didn’t win.
On our way driving home after her dancing eisteddfod, we always enjoyed discussing what she did well and not well in the competition. This reflection helped her focus on improving her techniques. I then focused on training her mindset: letting go.
Have you ever seen kids so upset after losing a competition? Kids cry and some cry badly. In fact, it’s not only kids who cannot take loss lightly. You only need to look at professional tennis players in major tournaments, then you will realise that even adults (professionals!) can’t handle loss well.
On our drive home if my daughter didn’t win the competition, then I would tell my daughter: “Whatever happened has already happened, so look forward and make sure you do better next time.” We then stopped over a McDonald’s restaurant and had an ice cream.
Training your kids to let go of something is an essential emotional skill that will pay off for your kids greatly. When they grow up, their emotional intelligence (EQ) will be high and they will be able to handle different situations better than others. Learning to letting go of something is perhaps the first EQ skill that you’d like to train your kids.
OK, then why did I always bring my daughter for an ice cream after her competition? In fact, we always went no matter she won or not. The secret is based on brain science.
The ‘ice cream’ talk built a bond between my daughter and I so we could discuss matters and her feelings. My daughter likes ice creams (which kid doesn’t?), so ice creams became a ‘reward’ for her actions (taking competitions and training). Also, when a child feels good (when eating an ice cream), it’s a lot easier for him/her to forget unhappy stuff (so letting go of the loss in competition).
When this process is repeated a couple of times, the talk will build strong mindset for a child and the ice cream will help strengthen this process by providing a ‘sweet’ reward. Taking advantage of brain science and human learning, you can train your children a strong mindset and learn to let go. So, they won’t become the ‘villains’ we see in superhero movies in the future! ^_+
Now, you can replace dancing from the above blog post with anything your children do; from swimming to exams. The same rule still works and works very well. Of course, you can replace ice cream with any reward that your children love. Human brains crave for positive rewards and this is how we learn from our experiences.
Dr. C. Richard Wu @ REEAConsulting.com
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