There’s a push and pull between every child and parent, it’s a natural part of the relationship. For fencing parents, there is an added layer of push and pull because of the balance of training, and because of the pressures of competition, and unintentionally parents can drive kids nuts.
Just about everyone has seen a parent lose it at a sporting event. It’s unfortunately not uncommon to see parents pressuring young athletes in a wide variety of ways, from the sidelines or after practice. Fencing is not immune to this reality, and it’s important for parents to think about what their actions are so that they can strike the right chord.
We’ve all been guilty of pushing things a little too hard with our kids, and that’s ok. What we want to do is to keep growing and to find the ways that we can improve. That starts with understanding the potential pitfalls.
Here are seven things that fencing parents do that drive their kids crazy.
1. Prioritizing winning.
It is very hard to be enthusiastic about fencing practice when a parent is focused so much on winning. It can become the case that a fencer can only think about a competition, not the joy of the sport.
Kids need to hear that they are doing a great job, even when they don’t win. There is not only value in loss, but it’s also the case that loss is inevitable. When parents make it all about winning, that robs kids of most of the joy in fencing. One mistake or a hundred mistakes on the piste does not negate the worthwhile impact of fencing on your child.
2. Trying to be their coach.
A parent’s role is to parent their child, not to coach them. Not even if you have fencing experience or if you think you know what is best.
Step back from the strip and watch, and don’t offer advice on your child’s fencing. Period. Especially not when it is unsolicited. Relax! Enjoy watching your child fence and just flow with it. You hired a fencing coach to teach your child how to fence, now let them do their job and let your child build the relationship with them that they want to have.
3. Overblowing little problems.
We want the best for our kids, but sometimes it is easy to make a mountain out of a molehill in sports parenting. That bad call by a referee or the not-quite-perfect fit of a fencing jacket can start to make fencing parents think and overthink things.
What seems like a huge thing to a fencing parent might not actually bother the child. It’s better to take a breath and consider whether something is worth putting effort into before we jump to conclusions and make a fuss. Maybe a child feels anxious when their parent starts going on about something that doesn’t really matter in the bigger scheme of things, or maybe the child is just exhausted from a long day of training or competing. Whatever the reason, it’s never too late to stop sweating the small stuff.
4. Pushing Olympic dreams.
Encouraging a child and telling them that they can be whatever they want to be is awesome! Kids need to hear that they are capable of growing.
What they don’t need to hear is that the Olympics are uber important. Certainly, the Olympics are exciting, and we want our kids to get excited about fencing. It’s thrilling to watch every four years, and it’s naturally inspiring. But hold back before you put posters of Olympic fencers all over your child’s room or insist that they rewatch every Olympic fencing match. Let them find their own way and let’s not drive kids nuts with our own inspirations!
5. Overfocusing on college.
There is no doubt that fencing in college can both be an amazing experience and also that it can be a support for getting into college. However, fencing has to be about fencing for a child. Putting all of the focus on how they have to do this or that in order to get into a good college is going to stress them out.
Allow kids to take joy in the sport, without thinking about where they’ll be in the future.
6. Dominating the conversation.
Our kids are our passion! We want to be a part of their lives, whether it is with fencing or some other activity. The not so easy part here is that kids need independence too. They need to be able to have things that are their own, and fencing is necessarily an individual sport that is theirs.
Absolutely show enthusiasm for fencing – wear that “fencing parent” tshirt and read all the blogs you can find on fencing parenting, but also consciously step back and let your child lead the way.
Oh, this is a big one. We naturally don’t want to see our kids be uncomfortable, but there is nothing we can or should do to stop that from happening. Growth happens in the place where we are not comfortable.
All too often, parents try to jump in and make sure that everything is going great, and it only bothers kids and hinders them from growing. If a child isn’t fencing as much as you want them to, that doesn’t mean you need to step in and fix it. You are still useful and engaged if you are stepping back and letting things play out without interfering.
All of these things boil down to really one thing – parents need to give their young fencers space. One of the best things about this sport is the way that it fosters independence and personal development. It’s the empowerment that draws kids to fencing! That can’t happen unless parents allow it to happen.
It is a hard tightrope to walk with children when we are trying to support their fencing and still be great parents. Kids tend to be ok with a lot of things that might drive parents crazy, and parents can miss things that drive kids nuts too.