Ninety percent of adult grandchildren feel their grandparents “influenced their values and behaviors.” Since values and behaviors make up a huge part of who we are, the influence of grandparents clearly can’t be understated.
When it comes to youth sports, the values and behaviors of youth players shape their experience into one that either enhances or detracts from their character. Think of the straight-A student who also volunteers at the soup kitchen and always finds joy playing on a volleyball team: this kid has good character. But also think of the struggling student who bullies nonathletes and is a sore loser on the soccer field: good character? Not so much.
How can grandparents help their grandchildren avoid the latter scenario? The trick is to work on building character intentionally. And since grandparents play a vital role in their grandkids’ values and behaviors, an intentional effort can go a long way. Here are three character traits grandparents are uniquely able to teach their athletic grandchildren: patience with progress, joy in the journey, and starting from scratch.
Patience with Progress
When you’ve lived 50, 60, 70, 80 years and more, you know what it means to wait. More importantly, you know the value of patience, the rewards that come from working and contentedly waiting for a positive outcome. You may have waited for your sweetheart to come home from war or worked for years to build your business.
Kids today struggle when waiting for a hot pocket to come out of the microwave. So, of course, they may also struggle when trying to make it onto a select team or improve their three-point-shot stats.
Grandparents can teach their grandchildren patience simply through example. One writer recalled her grandfather nurturing his orchids and helping her grandmother pick peaches and plums from her fruit trees. Her grandparents seemed to have all the time in the world to teach her card games. She said, “To remember those days is to step into a time when time itself never mattered.”
Joy in the Journey
We all know that soccer parent who screams at the ref and even at kids on the field. It’s great when parents care, but they can care a little too much.
Grandparents, on the other hand, are usually just there for the ride. They cheer for their grandchild’s team, none too concerned about the outcome of the game.
Which attitude is more likely to positively influence a young athlete? The happy-to-be-there grandparent, of course. We’re not saying that parents can’t teach their children to find joy in the journey, because they can. It’s just that long life experience teaches us to appreciate the positives in life and not worry about the negatives as much.
Research shows that “older people are actually happier than younger adults.” So how can grandparents help their grandchildren find this same happiness in sports? To start, they can cultivate a close relationship with their grandchildren, which will help the grandkids have fewer emotional problems.
Additionally, they can demonstrate a positive attitude while watching their grandchildren play. This will teach kids that sports have a more positive effect on us when we choose to focus on the joy of playing the game, not just the outcome.
Starting from Scratch
Stories from grandparents are an invaluable treasure to grandchildren. Some of the most impactful stories are those that tell of survival—and even success—after failure. It’s always amazing to grandchildren to watch their grandparent, as cool as a cucumber and clearly still alive, tell stories of failure and achieving success from scratch.
This amazement probably occurs because “fear of failure among children in America today is at epidemic proportions.” This fear can cause anxiety and even paralysis in kids. So when they contemplate what could happen when they attempt a sports-related goal, they may be too scared to even try.
Grandparents can help kids overcome fear of failure by telling stories of how they failed and then started from scratch. They can also teach kids that it’s okay if we fail—we can try again, try a different path, and always learn something new about ourselves and the world.
A loving grandparent is priceless. When grandparents work intentionally to help their grandchildren build character, they can teach the values of patience in progress, joy in the journey, and starting from scratch. When kids master these character traits, sports will be a character-building part of their lives that will help them long into the future. They might even pass the lessons on to their own grandchildren.