How not playing can be a teachable moment too! part 2

When a parent and child talk about how demanding a sport can be in terms of time, commitment, energy and focus in his little ten-year old life, it’s a valuable conversation. In our previous example, the parent did not punish her son when he finally woke and admitted he was just fine. Instead, she allowed him to have friends over for a short playtime.She reassured him (and herself) by verbalizing that together they would resolve the issues that kept him from participating with his team that morning.

A large part of what determines how a parent responds in these situations is past behavior. These are the questions that we have to ask ourselves in order to clarify our next steps. Does our child love the sport he is going to be playing that day? Does he frequently try and avoid activities? Does he get ‘sick’ often when there are performance related activities?  Or is he just not a morning person who never wants to get up regardless of the circumstances?

How we react and how much we force the issue depends on our child and what kind of struggles he has each day. If we notice a pattern of avoiding things in the morning, then probably they’re not getting enough sleep. If we notice a pattern of avoiding performance related activities regardless of the time of the day, then he probably has anxiety. If we notice that he tends to avoid one or two activities, then maybe they’re not really that engaged in those activities and he’s doing them to please adults in this life rather than because he really wants to.

There’s no easy answer to what to do in the moment when we’re prepared to go on a big day for a sporting event and our child says that he doesn’t feel well in the morning.

The good news is that it’s not as monumental an event and decision as we think. So what if he is feigning sickness to get out of the event?  We can learn from that and make future decisions as a result.

What we have to look for are patterns of similar behavior. If our child is not asking directly but rather avoiding things at the last minute, then we need to consider what kind of changes to make to have an open dialogue with him about those changes.

Parenting tip:  Remember the most important thing is our connection with our child and what we can learn about him through the process of everyday life and experiences. If we miss the soccer event or the sporting event that day, what’s really important to focus on are the lessons we can learn from the experience as well as what it tells us about him. Maybe he’s just sick that day, or there is something more going on. If so, this is a signal worth exploring together.

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