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A lesson from a broom

Youth zone
Patty Shaffner
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

The Olympics are over. School, sports and other activities are in full swing and parents may already be feeling breathless. I’d like you to try an experiment. Find your broom. Oh come on, this will be fun! So with the brush-side up (the big end), balance your broom on your flattened hand while looking at the part of the broom that you have on your hand. How long can you balance the broom? (Have someone time you or time yourself.) Now try again, and watch the brush side of the broom that is up in the air. How long were you able to balance the broom?

Parenting through your children’s sports and other activities is a bit like watching one end of the broom or the other. Parenting with the end in mind will help you guide your children through some tough spots in regards to their activities.

Thinking of your child in sports or other activities, what is it you have in mind for them to learn or gain from their experience? If asked, most parents would say they intend for their child to learn respect, to learn teamwork, to learn skills and to have fun. Very few parents would say they want their child to become an Olympic athlete, win every game or be the prima ballerina. Keeping what you hope your child will glean from their experience with an activity might make it easier to navigate parenting through a sports season or the preparation for a ballet performance.



When we, as parents stress over how much time our child does or doesn’t get to play on the court or field, or the part they have in a play, we are losing sight of the values we had hoped our children might gain from the experience in the first place. If we are unhappy with a referee’s call or the loss of a game, we have become short-focused, and may rob our child of the learning opportunity we had hoped for all along.

My husband and I are competitive people, both of us being college athletes and school coaches. We have certainly erred many times in the area of our kids in sports.



I specifically remember one time, though, that we parented through a situation effectively.

There was a call by a referee against our daughter which seemed really unfair at the time. My husband and I grumped about it with each other and hugged our daughter as she cried. As a family, we talked about how we could make this unfair situation into something positive. Our daughter came up with an idea and, in the end, came out feeling like a champ and improved her character in a big way. We could have protested the call, made a lot of noise and stink. I’m so glad we were able to focus on the big picture. That one situation has stuck with us because we all learned from it so profoundly. Whether the call was incorrect or not no longer matters.

Let’s remember as parents to intentionally focus on the big picture and not to be short-focused. Learning to control ourselves in these tense situations, intentionally looking at the end in mind, helps us teach our children that there is much more to learn from their activities than winning or being the so-called “star.”

Patty Schaffner is the Pals Mentoring program director


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