Sports. As a parent and supporter of your child: how to use

Many studies show that sport has a more than positive effect on the development of children and young people. For the body, physical activity supports growth, the prevention of diseases such as obesity or cardiovascular risks, as well as motor development and that of the skeletal system.

The fun factor

On a psychological level, club sport is also a way for young people to socialize and develop self-confidence, while helping to manage stress and anxiety disorders. According to a 2017 WHO report, every child should move at least 60 minutes a day. A recommendation from the government, which wants to achieve this quota by 2024.

What sounds good on paper is not an easy task for many parents to get their child interested in sports. In fact, it is difficult to explain to a 5-year-old child (the age recommended by professionals to start physical activity) how beneficial sport, and therefore compliance with the rules and exercise, is for his development.

It’s the fun factor that drives children to stick with a discipline, and forcing it often leads to failure, even disgust with the sport. But be careful, when the little one finally finds basketball on his foot, the role of the parents is far from over.

A fair balance between investment and freedom

“In extreme cases, I noticed that there are two types of parents,” says Hugo, coach of the U12 team at a handball club in Val-d’Oise. “There are those who are simple consumers who just give up their children and never see them at games or training sessions, and others who are extremely invested to the point where they put pressure on their child and even the umpires (they are the same age as the players on the field – ed.) during the games. »

While these behaviors may seem harmless in one case and abusive in another, they actually have a significant impact on youngsters’ sport practice. “Due to the presence of the parents, it often happens that some of my players don’t want to return to the pitch after a missed shot or an action,” notes Hugo and also evokes a disturbed handling of emotions caused by the pressure. Family.

“It’s a tiny part but for some the level is different when it’s the dad or mom who comes to see the games. In the second case, they often play more freely, with less fear of failure,” he adds.

A thin yellow line

Helping your child succeed in a sport requires the right balance of investment and freedom, which at first glance is difficult to find: the more competitive the sport becomes, the narrower the yellow line gets.

At the end of a match, for example, it is pointless to dramatize the poor performance of one’s own offspring or the team, or to attack the referee. At this stage, the parents are simply there to listen to the child’s disappointment and embrace the positive.

Playing sports is first of all building your own universe, an idea that also applies to children.

It is also important to be present at certain sporting events to show him the interest we have in his work. “I encourage parents who don’t do this to stop by every now and then to see the end of training,” says Hugo.

There is the right balance between the two. Playing sport, whether collectively or individually, is first and foremost the construction of one’s own universe, an idea that also applies to children. To encourage this slice of emancipation, the best thing you can do as a parent is to ensure that the environment the child is in is healthy. All that’s left is to pose as a reassuring and benevolent pillar, giving your child the attention they deserve while letting them sail freely from failure to victory.

“It is important to let him do his activity”

The point of view Philippe Godin, Professor of Sport Psychology, UC Louvain

What does sport bring to a child?

To answer this question, we must first distinguish between sports that are practiced from a training perspective and sports that are aimed at competition. Physical activity in the broadest sense has a positive effect on the biological level, on the physiological, articular, bone and muscular level, on the brain or even on the oxygen supply… In the beginning, sport was used for this. When you start competitive sports now, a few things change. Whoever says competition actually means measuring and comparing, and here parents often play an important role because the child wants to compare himself with his peers. It is necessary to place a certain number of rules and criteria in order to avoid overdoing it.

What are these criteria?

The first is to leave the activity to the child so that it is not stolen from him. I insist on this term because sometimes the parent or parents try to appropriate this sporting activity as if it were their own, through a process of identification: the adult will want his child to do what he would have done, if he had had that chance… These are phrases I hear during my clinical consultations. Things often get out of hand at this level because the child no longer finds himself in his own project, his own world. This brings us to the other benefits and effects of physical and sporting activity: It enables social and emotional development and learning to manage emotions. To do this, the child must remain master of its world, and the intrusion of the parents into this sphere will thwart this development. The perverse thing about this system is that unfortunately it often starts with a good intention: the adult wants to help the child. That’s what’s difficult, there’s a good middle ground and it’s not easy to respect. On the other hand, there are parents who don’t care, and that’s just as damaging.

What effects can the behavior of the parents have on the child?

There are studies that have been done on this subject that clearly show that the middle setting is the most beneficial. Whether it’s a parent who pushes too hard or a disinvested parent, in either case the child will not get the most out of sports practice. This leads to behavioral, attitude and/or mood deviations. It can also cause disinterest, lack of confidence, low self-esteem, etc. The advice we can give parents is to support – there is also a big semantic difference between “urge” and “support”. Child, regardless of its development in the sports system, with the victories and failures in the competitive world.

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