I’m a parent to a two year old, and a coach to 17 cheerleaders. Sometimes I have a hard time deciding job which is more difficult. Regardless, I’ve learned some lessons since becoming a mommy that have helped me be better at my job. Here are my top 5:
1. Being their friend never works
I want to have a great relationship with my daughter, but I know I can’t be her friend. Same goes with my squad. My daughter, and my cheerleaders, won’t like what I have to say or agree with me all the time. That’s okay, and it doesn’t matter. It’s my job, both as a mother and coach, to set boundaries and enforce them, even when I make unpopular decisions. I’ll have their best interest at heart and they’ll come to see that. In the end I think each relationship will be stronger simply because I…hopefully…earn their respect.
2. Yelling doesn’t always work, either
When my daughter throws a tantrum, matching her intensity level is never effective. I try to reserve my yelling to truly dangerous situations. Sure, I have my bad days. No one is perfect and long days and lack of sleep can wreak havoc on our best intentions. But lately I’ve let my daughter have her tantrum, and tell her, “I can’t understand you when you scream, please use your words,” and follow it with, “I’ll be right here when you’re ready for a hug and want to calm down.” I make sure she’s tantruming in a safe location, let her get it out, and only indulge her if she’s able to communicate what she wants. This may seem like a tall order for a two year old, but I have to say, it’s much more effective than screaming back at her to, well, stop screaming.
While the situation is slightly different with my 17 “other kids,” in that they’re much older and, um, should be more capable of communicating, I’ve learned that yelling at them doesn’t work either. Staying silent or continuing to use a speaking voice instead of yelling at them for misbehaving has proven much more effective than yelling. I can’t possibly compete with the volume of 17 teenage girls, anyway. It’s not too long until they notice that I haven’t said anything in awhile, and my stern, average-volume voice, when they’re ready to truly hear me, speaks louder than any yelling I could do.
3. If you say no to something, mean it and follow through
Plain and simple, though easier said than done. Consistency is everything in parenting and coaching. They’ll soon learn what they can get away with, if you let them. Don’t. Trust yourself, start strong, stay strong and try not to waiver in your decisions.
4. Give options, and empower them with choices
Just try telling a two year old exactly what to do every minute of the day and see what the outcome is. Toddlers love to feel like they’re in control but parents know that’s just not realistic 24/7. Teenagers are no different. They’re on the verge of adulthood but often struggle with making grown-up decisions.
What works with my daughter is to give her options. “Do you want to wear the pink shoes or white shoes?” “Do you want PB&J or turkey for lunch?” Giving options with parameters allows me to direct her choices without making them for her, and empowers her to make choices I’m comfortable with.
These boundaries will work with my cheerleaders as well. Letting them pick from a couple options I’ve offered for, let’s say, what they want to focus on during a practice shows them they have a voice on the team too, but still ensures we cover the material we need to.
5. It’s more fun…when you make it fun
I experienced something this past week when we were at cheerleading camp. Up until camp began, I found myself approaching the season with a negative attitude, already defensive, fearing what I was coming up against with the struggles I knew were to come this season.
Then camp happened, and I had the opportunity to closely interact with our awesome instructor. She was positive, always. She didn’t let herself get walked all over, but even when the girls were behaving in a way she needed to put a stop to, she was still upbeat. It’s a fine line to walk but she did it so well. It didn’t drag the girls down, but instead got them back on track and kept them moving in a positive direction. They were having fun. This for sure was something I was lacking last year in my job.
But not at home with my daughter. It’s not easy but I find ways to make most things fun. The routine doesn’t have to be mundane. I just failed to extend this to my work life as well.
This season will be different. I have to remember that these girls are teenagers, doing something that they’re good at and they enjoy, and I want them to continue to enjoy it while putting the work in. And if I keep it fun, they’ll continue to have fun, and we’ll all be better for it. In fact my mantra for this year is “contagious positive energy.”