The school sports day may bring back memories of your Usain Bolt-style sprint exploits, or it may reawaken long-forgotten memories of falling flat on your face in the three-legged race.
Regardless, it’s important to leave any of your memories in the past to avoid transferring any stress or negativity onto your kids come the big day.
Sports days should be fun, not full of pressure or high expectations from pushy parents who want to enjoy vicarious success through their kids.
Nor should children be put off or held back by negativity or apathy because sports days were a miserable event in their parents’ school careers.
We all know children aren’t the best when it comes to losing – putting it mildly – and with only one winner in each race, children can often be left feeling upset, which is the last thing any parent wants to see.
So, here are a few ways you can help sports days become a fun event for all the family.
There’s a difference between being pushy and being supportive. You can support your child without them feeling pressure to come first. If they’re nervous – and let’s face it, who isn’t nervous at the start of an egg and spoon race? – then offer them gentle encouragement to give them the confidence in themselves to take part. And don’t forget to tell them to enjoy it and have fun.
2Never use the ‘L’ word
Whether your child comes second, or last, never ever use the ‘lose’ word around them. Children don’t take kindly to losing, and they will respond much better to being told they were 6th (even if there were only six in the race) than being told that they lost.
3It’s the taking part that counts
It’s the biggest cliché in the book, but really it is the taking part that counts. It has to be really, because the odds of actually winning anything at a school sports day are stacked against the majority of kids. Make sure your child knows that you are proud of them for being brave enough to compete in the first place. And if your words alone aren’t enough to convince them, then offer them a little ‘taking part trophy’ at the end of the day, which could be anything from a lollipop to their choice of toy from their favourite shop (depending on how generous you’re feeling).
4Join in the parents’ races
It’s one thing preaching about sports days being fun, it’s quite another thing getting your child to believe you. But what better way to prove it – and to practice what you preach – than taking part in the races designed to humiliate mums and dads? It may be the last thing on earth that you want to do – picking up the dog poo on the neighbouring playing field might sound far more appealing – but sometimes you just have to put your pride to one side and suck it up. And remember, you didn’t come last; you came 14th. And it’s the taking part that counts…
5Applaud their classmates
While you might be secretly raging that little Jenny with the perfect pigtails narrowly pipped your daughter to the post in the sack race, save that particular rant for your partner later on as you drown your sorrows with a gin or two. Make an effort to congratulate your daughter, and Jenny with the perfect pigtails, and all the other “winners” – there are no losers remember? – for their achievements. It’s important to imbue your kids with this ‘good sportsmanship’ message in order to help them become team players as they grow older.