Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mommy - Stop Cheering for Me

In honor of Mother's day we decided to share a story about Mental Management instructor Heather Sumlin's daughter, Ashley, also known as "the Peas". We can learn a lot from our kids when we listen.  

The Peas found a new passion: SOCCER. She loves to run and be outside, it's a great fit for her. Although secretly (not always so secretly) I want her to love to dance or pursue something with beauty, elegance and Air Conditioning, I'm learning to embrace soccer. Up until recently the Peas had yet to score a goal.  She would get the ball and then freeze or kick it and watch it roll. She wouldn't run after it with the aggression needed to be successful in this contact sport. 

In her second to last game of the season she tells me "Mommy don't cheer for me today. Please!" 
"What? Why?" I said.  
"When you cheer for me I lose my focus.  I need to think about the ball and when you cheer I think about what you are saying and not what I am doing." 

So I decided to play it her way and as much as I wanted to cheer and scream when she got the ball I kept my mouth shut tight. She scored two goals that game, her first two goals ever!  She was aggressive, in the moment and fearless. She was a ball player and for the first time she was focused and successful in a game.

For the Peas even though all the other parents are cheering she hears me over all of them.  Unknowingly I was pulling her focus and keeping her from reaching her goal.  I was coaching her from the sidelines and that's not my job.  She needs to pay attention to her real coach and her game plan, not me. I need to stand back and watch, enjoy, video tape maybe but my cheering is not a helpful addition to the game, at least not for her. I'm thankful that she was mature enough at 7 years old to realize that my cheering is a distraction to her and vocal enough to ask me to keep it down and let her focus.  
I was a variable to her game and the only variable that she could change. Once my excited yelling was toned down she was able to focus on the task at hand. Next season I may be the only parent without a sore throat after a game due to my silence but I will listen to my daughter. I will be open to altering my parenting due to what her needs are and I will do my best to allow the coaching to be done by the coach. 

This experience made me wonder, why do we become so connected to what other people are doing and saying that we fail to keep our focus on what is right in front of us?  It happens all of the time.  We focus on things that will not help us to reach our goals.  

Often times we allow our environment to pull us from thinking about and acting on what we need to be doing. Unlike the 7 year old Peas, we cannot change our environment in most cases. And over time she will have to find a way to control her thoughts despite her environment as well. But what about the things we can control? What if we limited our distractions, focused on our tasks with confidence, clearly communicated what we need from others and checked all worry at the door...we too could be successful. 

by Heather Sumlin, Director of Customer Relations and Performance Programs for Mental Management Systems (