Do you push your kids to do any kind of sports after school? Are after school activities necessary, important or just too much for kids after a full day at school?
Our two daughters - aged 6 and 8 both swim after school at least twice a week, sometimes more. The younger one swims for 1 hour and the elder for 1.5 hours. Both enjoy their swimming and are happy to go to their training, but it hasn't always been like that!
They both went to swimming lessons from 3 months old. We felt that it was important for them to learn to swim particularly given that we live in Australia, and there is a pool in our backyard. Swimming has always been a big part of their lives.
These lessons tailed off once they started school - where they have 2 short, class lessons a week as part of their curriculum. However, once they were both settled into school life, we encouraged them to return to swimming lessons after school.
There were three reasons for this - they both love swimming and are good at it, so it's something we knew they would enjoy and gain confidence as they improved. The second reason was that we simply wanted them to be active. Kids no longer spend all their spare time running, climbing trees and biking with friends as we did as children and our parents did before us. Times have changed and parents no longer feel comfortable or safe letting their children roam free around the streets and countryside. The third reason was to encourage them to make new friends outside of those in their classrooms.
Over the last couple of years, there were plenty of times when they didn't want to go to their lessons. We heard all the usual excuses kids come up with, but we persisted and pushed them to continue. Yes there were tears at times, and we also felt bad at times, but we felt it was the right thing to do so we continued.
Last year our eldest daughter had her first swimming carnival at school. She was excited but nervous. In the end she thoroughly enjoyed the day and came away with the gold medal as the best swimmer for her age group. This was a big turning point for her. She was getting formal recognition and praise for her ability in a sport she truly loves. She could see the benefits and results from not just playing around swimming in our pool at home, but in training and going to lessons after school.
Since that day she has been very keen to go to her swimming lessons, and wanting to go more often! Seeing the joy she gets out of swimming and the drive she has to do it, makes me feel good about having pushed her to continue in previous years. It was never a big deal, more just a laziness of wanting to go home and play or watch tv instead.
Our younger daughter has also started coming to swimming carnivals, but is a little frustrated as the swimming policy here means that under 8 year olds cannot be given medals! She is a good swimmer -and I'm sure once she reaches age 8 , there will be medals for her too. But for now, we will push her and help her get through that frustration until she reaches the age when she can get formal recognition and praise for her ability in a sport she also loves.
So our three reasons for pushing after school sports when they were less than keen have been vindicated:
1. They do still love swimming - their faces light up when they jump in the pool! Our eldest daughter has shown a marked increase in her overall confidence in general since her first medal win. We have always praised her actions, and achievements, but there's something different - a more tangible thing to be proud of when you get medals and certificates!
2. Swimming has kept the girls active. I believe in the value of their swimming training plus activities with us as a family, they are as active as we were when we were kids, running and playing around the streets and fields every day. They are both fit, healthy, active and strong kids.
3. Socially they have met lots of new friends through swimming. They have friends that they can share their common interest with - and those friends are a range of ages from several different schools and backgrounds. We, as parents are also getting the added benefit of making more friends too, as we meet more swimming parents at various events!
I don't want this story to sound like we're pushing our children in the sense of telling them they have to win medals and be the best swimmers ever. This is not the case. We have just chosen to use a sport that they both enjoy and have an aptitude for, to help them learn that being active and fit is important and can be fun.
We don't want our kids to be ones who, if left to their own choices, would sit in front of the TV and computer games every day. It is important for parents to take a leadership role and promote positive lifestyle choices. We want to bring up kids who choose active healthy lifestyles and also enjoy doing that.
As a family we have also joined the local running club (running is what Euan and I enjoy), and we go out for runs and swims together, which gives us valuable family time and also common interests and a bond that we can build upon as the girls grow. They have come to races we have entered and supported us, just as we always support them in their swimming. It feels good that we are all encouraging each other and sharing in each other's interests. Having a common interest is a great way of helping promote teamwork and also letting the family grow through common pursuits - together, and have something in common as the kids grow up.
Sometimes it is necessary as a parent to 'push' your children to do things that may be out of their comfort zone, or take on hard work, or even try something scary that they've never done before. We have to help them to become adults who can have self confidence and self control.
After school sports and activities are an excellent way to help kids learn this. There are so many to choose from, karate, football, dancing, netball....so many opportunities for kids to get active, make friends and learn to get out there and build their self-confidence, self-respect, not to mention their health and fitness levels.
What after school sports do your kids do? or did you do as a child?
Have you pushed your kids to join in and get active, or is this a subtle form of child abuse along with homework!?