Do you find that it is always a debate with your child to put on their shoes, leave the park or pack their toys away? Only to find that they are little angels during their gymnastics class?
The question that many parents ask me is “What is your secret?”
Of course, the quick answer is that I have the advantage of not being their parent. Yes children are more inclined to behave for outsiders, especially teachers, however there are a few secrets from my world of gymnastics that you can use on your parenting paths to get the best from your child.
"The question that many parents ask me is “What is your secret?”"
Success in gymnastics is very dependent upon the gymnasts ability to duplicate and execute difficult skills consistently. Consistency means that you always do what you say you will do. Rules don’t change based on your mood, and children rely on this structure and routine. When I say something, the children know that I mean it. I give gentle but firm warnings and announce instructions in a definite and matter-of-fact manner, which I consistently follow through on.
An interesting thing happens when we try and force children to do things. They don't like it and push back. Their autonomy is important to them. If you try to coerce them, it reduces their autonomy and makes them feel like their feelings don’t matter. I like to offer them choices, where all the outcomes are acceptable to me. They get to choose and become more responsive because they feel trusted and supported.
A big factor in the success of a gymnast is not only their grit but their passion to do better with each attempt. I don't cajole or hassle children to do necessary tasks, it's exhausting and counter-productive. Instead I work to develop and reward their personal initiative. Given some space, children will use their initiative, they will eventually do what is required. With some flexibility and without a biased interest in the process, you will be amazed at how effective this can be.
In gymnastics each gymnasts progress is a personal journey. They will experience different fears, injuries and challenges along the way, no matter their talent. Once a gymnast has learned to take personal initiative, what naturally flows from this is accountability. I like to educate them as to why we do certain things, especially difficult or challenging tasks. Strength for example is not as fun as tumbling, but if the gymnast understands that in order to improve, they need to be strong, they replace the negative feeling towards the difficult task with their prospective goal.
"Use your praise judiciously and it will become valuable."
I have a clear lesson plan for each class which I use as a road map to get the children to where they need to be. I plan for each lesson and around each child's unique development. As a result, the children have an understanding of the work that they need to get through. Following a plan allows each child to individually flourish, rise to my expectations and take accountability for their personal improvement.
Feedback needs to be positive and constructive but it also needs to be authentic, honest and sincere. The use of positive praise loses its effect if it is used regardless of work being done. Use your praise judiciously and it will become valuable. Children are eager to please and work hard to be recognized.
Gymnasts are not robots, each day, and in different contexts, they will have different feelings and motivations. I like to line them up before and after every lesson. I ask them how they are and check-in on their mental and physical condition. More often than not I can read their body language. I know when they are tired, upset or just trying their luck. It's important to listen. To push when appropriate and back off on their off days.
Gymnastics is a dangerous sport and instructions are often there to protect children from getting injured. I need the children to listen, understand and intentionally engage with me on a given task. If a child is carelessly undertaking a skill or doing something which they were specifically instructed not to do, I immediately address the behavior in a calm manner. When a child is misbehaving it does not affect my feelings so I don't get angry or raise my voice. The behavior is corrected and boundaries are maintained.
Getting children to share or wait patiently doesn't need to be a traumatizing experience. As adults we are comfortable waiting in line, as long as no-one cuts in front right? Children have the exact same expectation of fairness. I like to ensure that my system is fair and once I explain that they will get a chance, they generally calm down.
"excellence is an attitude...allowing us to embrace failure in our quest for improvement."
In different circumstances I alternate my verbal tactics. If I want the children to calm down or be quiet, I like to whisper or tell them to walk on their tippy-toes as quietly as a mouse. I also use visual cues to grab their attention, such as saying “put your finger on your elbow” to see who is listening. Then once I have their attention I keep my instructions clear, direct and short.
In a sport that is inherently difficult, perfection is unattainable, instead we strive for excellence. So what is the difference? Perfection is unforgiving and inflexible and in general someone else's perception, whereas excellence is an attitude. It is far more forgiving, allowing us to embrace failure in our quest for improvement. If we strive for excellence we prioritize progress over perfection. I commend children who get up after a fall or those who keep trying, even when their efforts are yielding little results. We need to teach our children to never give up and strive to be better.
At Gymkidz we aim to get the best from every child and maximize their learning experience, in a calm and gentle but structured environment.
We promote an attitude of excellence and encourage each gymnast to never give up.
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Happy Rolling – Gymkidz | 0406 042 385 | 95 Lennox St Newtown | Gymkidzau@gmail.com