Five Lessons Learned From Parents of Competitive Children

You’ve read the stories of Natalie, Jordan, Ashlyn and Bailee. They’re all different kids and participate in different kinds of competitive activities. They work at different levels, in different geographic regions.

But in my conversations with their parents, the similarities between these children far outweighed the differences. There seem to be five big lessons to learn from these families.

1. It’s something inside them

In talking to these parents, one central point became clear. This competitive spirit in their children was something intrinsic to the kids. The fire, determination and drive that these children possess is not something their parents put there or even necessarily encouraged at first. It's just the way the children are.

Sometimes, as in Ashlyn’s case, it was clear when she was only 3 years old. Sometimes, as with Natalie, it can be seen in the transformative power in a child’s personality. And sometimes, as with Jordan, it’s simply the combination of the right kid with the right sport at the right time. After that, all bets are off.

2. You still make a difference

That being said, it's clear that great parenting makes a difference for these kids, too. You might not be able to instill drive and determination, but good sportsmanship and a healthy perspective on the competition are surely influenced by parents. And having these qualities gives children the necessary outlook on life to keep competing without constantly beating themselves up.

3. Give them a chance

It pays to listen to your children and give them opportunities. Do they want to try a sport or activity? Give them a shot. These children may not have learned their intense drive and determination, but their parents were also willing to let them try different activities and sports until they found the right one.

The word “chance” is important here. As mentioned above, sometimes it takes a chance meeting of kid and activity. So don’t be afraid to go out on a limb for your child. There’s no guarantee that it will work, but you may be surprised.

4. Build relationships with other parents

This isn’t just about your kids, after all. You’ll be spending serious time on the road and at events with them. So get to know the other parents, and get to know their kids. You’ll be forming friendships and bonds that last outside the sporting context.

In the case of Jerry and Andres, they even started a business catering to the needs of those parents and kids. These folks are your peers. Your kids may be competing, but there’s no reason that you have to.

5. Don’t do just one thing

According to the parents of the three kids, all of them participate in other sports or activities beyond their main focus. Natalie, the dancer, plays viola. Twins Ashlyn and Bailie participate in numerous sports. Even possible Olympian Jordan manages to fit in some tennis. And that highlights an important truth: It pays to diversify and embrace different interests. Your children might not be the best in every activity they try, but they can gain something from them nonetheless.

Posted by Clay Wirestone

Clay Wirestone is arts editor of the Concord Monitor, as well as awriter, designer, and cartoonist. His freelance articles have appearedin Mental Floss, Presstime, and the Yale Alumni magazines. He pops upregularly on public radio and has, improbably, contributed to theHistory Channel show Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy. Claylives in Concord, N.H., with his husband, their son and an arthritic dog.


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