Make no bones about it, today’s environment is hyper-competitive. From getting into certain schools, sports teams, music academies and drama schools right through to University courses and the first graduate job, life as a post-millennial or Gen Z can be cut throat.
Or to put it more accurately, for the parent or coach it can be. It is the duty of the parent and coach to try and reduce the effect of this on the children. The temptation is to push them – push them to work harder, do more clubs, train harder or for longer, all in the goal for perfection.
This won’t work, perhaps not in the short term but definitely not in the long term. Motivation and the desire to succeed needs to come from them and not be forced upon them by a coach or especially a parent. It will backfire, often spectacularly, at some point in the future if it is.
It might be difficult to see in the cut and thrust of all this competition and it can be heartbreaking to see loved ones miss out on medals, teams, PBs, grades, etc but I strongly believe that mastering self motivation in something that catches their interest is more important and beneficial for their future as life as an adult when it all gets more serious.
If a kid can find and utilise motivation themselves then they are well on the right path to a fulfilling and successful life. When they leave home for College, University or for a career then those who are used to being motivated by others stand a far less chance of making it.
How can kids garner this self-motivation and can it be ‘taught’? These are the three main bits of advice I would give parents:
- Encourage participation across a number of subjects, fields, sports, interests at a young age and throughout early childhood years. Don’t specialise too early, even if an early talent is prevalent and push them to explore more. Participating in a broad spectrum of activities strengthens the body and mind in a number of different areas and ways and injuries, illness and lack of interest can also stop promising careers at any point. At some point there is a strong chance that something will catch their attention and once that flash of interest is found, encourage them to pursue with all their passion.
- Whether you are a parent or a coach (or even both), be a role model. If you’re a parent, set an example on attitude, punctuality, effort and energy levels, work ethic and the willingness to go the extra mile. Kids copy and learn from adults so get to classes on time or early, don’t moan or quit because of the weather or the time of day, don’t be negative, always accentuate the positives and look on the bright side. Passion and energy is contagious. If they see Mum, Dad or brother/sister working hard on a project and sacrificing certain things, training hard for an event whatever the level and persevering with learning a new skill then it is highly likely they will think this is the norm, copy and bring it into later life with them.
- Be coachable. Listen to advice, respect authority, don’t let them think they and you know it all and always want to find ways to improve. As the saying goes, ‘Uncoachable kids become unemployable adults’