Every two weeks, I have the opportunity to go on One Life Radio 1190AM as a fitness guest expert. Recently, Vito joined and led the discussion about raising high performance kids. Vito was a 4-year Varsity wrestler at Indiana University, 3-year captain, 2 time honorable mention All-American, Academic All American, Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient and Kelly School of Business graduate. His collegiate athletic experience taught him skills that helped him succeed on the mat and have carried on with him beyond college.
As parents, our job is to take what we have learned (or experienced), stand shoulder to shoulder with one another and then teach our kids.
One of the most important character traits we try and instill in our kids is learning to be accountable. Accountability is simply the willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions. Developing accountability takes times. It is not an instinctive reaction and it doesn't give you instant gratification. It happens over time and begins in the earliest stages of life. How can you teach your child to be accountable so they can be high performing?
1. Individual Sports/Activities
As a wrestler, Vito learned accountability because winning and losing was all his fault. When he stepped onto the mat, if he won, it was because of him, and if he lost, it was because of him. Winning and losing in an individual sport does not allow you to blame someone else. You have to be accountable. Parents (including myself) oftentimes make excuses for children and coddle them when kids should take ownership. Put your child in an individual sport, and see how your child’s character develops and matures. What are our children involved in? Throughout the year, they participate in both individual and team activities: swimming, ballet, piano, football, Tae Kwon Do, Kumon, wrestling, basketball, baseball, hiking, triathlons, 5K's and 8-mile runs.
2. Performance Recap
Three of our four children swim competitively (USA Swimming requires children to be at least 6-years old). They are not going to the Olympics, but this year round sport conditions their bodies and improves their mental health. At the last swim meet, Nico (our 7-year old) missed the mark on 2 of his 3 events. At his first event, he forgot his goggles. At his third event, he swam the wrong stroke and was immediately disqualified. After his performance, I asked him two questions: 1. What did you like about your performance? 2. What would you do differently? These questions are asked of all kids after their activities and school. Why? I value having a conversation with my kids. I want to be a sounding board for them when they have positive and not-so-positive things happen. Most importantly, by having a performance recap conversation, children learn what is working well and what they can do differently to change the outcome.
3. Fail Forward
One of the toughest things for me to watch is when one of my kids fails. Their tears, outbursts, and looks of disappointment break my heart. On the flipside, after their failure, what our kids do about it sets him or her apart. After a botched score, dropped ball or forgotten homework, our kids are learning there is no one to blame but themselves, so they go out and study harder, run extra routes, or leave a post-it note reminder. Teaching your child how to rebound after failing helps build confidence that when they fail (and they will), how they can be accountable for their mistakes and do something about it. When children are accountable for their failures, they will be able to rise to the occasion the next time they are given an opportunity.
Being a parent is the hardest and most rewarding job. Every conversation with our kids helps build a foundation for the future. Helping your child be accountable becomes more habitual when they participate in individual sports/activities, have a performance recap and learn to fail forward. Together, let’s become the strongest parents and build a strong family.
Niccole Maurici, University Park mom of four and former certified personal trainer, is the co-founder and creator of the StrongestMom.com website and fitness videos, which promote values important to moms: encouragement, support, positive thinking, and dedication. To learn more visit our website strongestmom.com.