Loving, well-adjusted parents want two things for their hockey-playing offspring: happiness and success. The key is how you go about trying to help your child achieve them. All too often, we get distracted by our own needs for our son or daughter to be successful.
When this happens and our ego gets in the way, we have a tendency to lose our adult perspective. We forget that this is our 10-year-old-boy or girl who’s standing in front of us in tears after a disappointing game. As a consequence, we end up saying and doing things that not only damage our child’s learning and performance, but that damage our child’s mental health as well. Sadly, what we fail to realize is that we are also doing real harm to our personal relationship with our kid.
Let me state the obvious here: Hockey is just a game! It is not and should not be larger than life. How well your child plays as a 10- or 16-year-old is not more important than your long-term relationship with your kids. Whether your child lets in two goals tonight, turned the puck over and cost his team the winning goal or missed an empty netter is not more important than their overall mental and emotional health and happiness. Long after your child has hung up his pads and skates and put away the sticks for good, your relationship with them will hopefully endure. As they grow up, move away from home and start their own families, hopefully you will continue to be an important part of their lives. And you will, just as long as you avoid these two, all too common, hockey parent mistakes:
Whose goal is this anyways?
Why should your children play this game? It’s a basic question with a very simple answer. They should play because they want to — because hockey is fun for them and makes them happy. They should have their own goals in the sport and play it because hockey is their passion. Your job as a loving parent is to allow your kids to take ownership of their sport. It should belong to them, NOT you!
This means that whatever hockey expectations and dreams you have for them, you need to put aside. Your kids should not be playing this sport to make you happy or proud. They need your permission and blessings to play just for themselves and to pursue their own goals, regardless of how meager or uninspired they may be. Your hockey goals for them are totally irrelevant here.
Your child’s goal might be to be the best and play in the NHL, and boy, does that ever excite us as parents. However, what if your child plays to simply have fun and hang out with their friends? They might not give a hill of beans about being great — they might not approach their game the way you would have if you were in their place. Careful here — this is one of the things that we as parents do to really confuse our understanding of our children. We superimpose our own model of the world on theirs. For example, “When I was your age, I would have skated 24/7 to make the team! I would have done much more off-ice work than you’re doing. Why aren’t you doing that?”
The truth of the matter is that we have to continually remind ourselves that we’re not their age anymore and hockey belongs to them, not us. You have to learn to look at hockey and their life through their eyes, not yours. Therefore, your job as a loving parent is to support your child and their hockey dreams in whatever way works for them.
What we’re saying here is that you don’t want to allow your child’s hockey to be more important to you than it is to them. Your goals for them should not become more important than their goals — a recipe for heartache and unhappiness. If you make their hockey too important, then you will inevitably end up pushing them too much and this always ends badly. As a loving parent, it’s not your job to push your child’s hockey on them, to make them practice, to evaluate their efforts, to critique their skills and to criticize their play after games. All those jobs belong to the coach.
This brings us to the second BIG mistake that hockey parents make.
Inadvertently tying a child’s lovability directly to how well they perform.
When the child has a good game or practice, you as the parent respond with warmth, support and love. However, if the child messes up, do you get angry, show your frustration and disappointment and make it clear (purposely or not) to your son/daughter that you are unhappy with them for letting you down?
If you truly love your child and want them to be happy and successful on and off the ice, if you genuinely want them to go as far as possible in this sport, then you will NEVER make this mistake.
The parent who responds with anger, frustration and disappointment after a bad game, communicates to their child, whether they realize it or not, that he/she has to perform in order to earn their love. The other unfortunate message that gets sent here is that hockey is more important to that parent than the child’s feelings. This will make that child incredibly anxious each and every time he steps onto the ice. For the child, there is now a lot more at stake than playing well and winning a hockey game. They are now skating for their parents’ love and approval. This kind of a situation will immediately kill the fun and passion in the sport, leaving the young skater vulnerable to being a premature drop-out statistic.
Always show your love to your children unconditionally, whether they win or lose. In fact, they probably need your love and understanding much more when they struggle and fail. Be sure to be there for them and do not inadvertently make them perform for your love and acceptance. Remember, your children grow up and will move away from home way too fast. Savor the time that you have with them now and be grateful for the blessings that they are!