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Paul Gray

Strategies & tools for motivating a 6 year old boy

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Paul Gray

Hi all

I have a 6 year old son and his motivation to practice gymnastics outside of class fluctuates from super passionate to uninterested. He started attending a club in the UK 4months ago where gold medal winner Max Whitlock trains, but only attends one class of 2hours a week currently.  Some days he's super motivated and is just like a sponge at absorbing and improves so quickly out of class with little practice. Other days he gets bored, distracted and grumpy.

Does anyone have any tips of how I can get him to be more consistent with practice? I don't want to be one of these pushy parents and traumatise him. I feel he has so much potential - and the sooner we lay a good foundation for him now, the better his whole life will be.

I guess my question also applies to his studies and even life in general - how do I teach him self disipline now so that he can achieve anything he sets his mind to in the future? (Appreciate that's not a simple question to answer in a few sentences)

Much love.

Paul

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Alessandro Mainente

Hey Paul probably he is not really interested. I can see this from my kids in the club where I'm coaching. When things become harder their interest comes out. I suggest you do not force him, for sure when more effort is required he will decide autonomously.

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Bill Marr

Hey Paul. I am involved with our regional football (soccer) association that oversees over 17,000 athletes, a good percentage that are kids. One of the biggest challenges we have is growing the sport at the grassroots level. Kids today have so many choices, not only in sport, but with video games, online activities, etc. This is leading to a decline in registrations ... not only in our jurisdiction, but across the country and world. 

The biggest reason for the decline in participation, especially at the younger ages (U12 and below) is that they no longer have fun. In today's competitive world, everyone's son is the next Lionel Messi. Every year specialised training in our sport starts at a younger age. Kids 9 year-old are being cut from teams, told they aren't good enough. This causes a mass exodus from the sport as it's no longer fun for many of the kids. 

In analysing the recent Winter Olympics, a country with barely 5 million people handed the rest of the sporting world their a**es by handily winning the medal count. When asked about how the Norwegians have managed to produce so many quality athletes, its director of elite sports attributes this as part of the secret:

“Ovrebo says that in Norway, organized youth sports teams cannot keep score until they are 13. “We want to leave the kids alone,” says Ovrebo. “We want them to play. We want them to develop, and be focused on social skills. They learn a lot from sports. They learn a lot from playing. They learn a lot from not being anxious. They learn a lot from not being counted. They learn a lot from not being judged. And they feel better. And they tend to stay on for longer.” 

While this doesn't directly answer your question, the message I want to get to young athletes and parents is, put fun back in sport. If kids enjoy themselves and acquire a basic technical capability in a particular sport, or sports in general, they will have a better chance of sticking with it... to adulthood and beyond. The obsession with crowning national champions at 10 years of age is insane. This does nothing more than chase out so many kids whose bodies have not yet matured. It's scary to think how many Michael Phelpses and David Beckhams quit before anyone even caught a glimpse of their potential.

If you teach your son to enjoy his training... whatever that might be... you will significantly increase the odds of him being one who embraces and excels at sport. That's my two cents.

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Jared Birbeck

I have 3 kids, and they all go in and out of interest a bit. if they are into it they will do it and look for my input to help. if they aren't they don't have any interest. They are also very different in the way they will interact with practice. My eldest is dedicated, she wants things to practice and wants me there to 'help'. but she is only interested in the cool stuff (she is now 11) so I can't get her to stretch at all even though it will help her do cool stuff.

My youngest who is now 7, will go all out for something he wants, but loses interest quickly. for him it has to be just fun. not training, not anything specific but fun. No input from me.

My middle child, now 9, comes in and out of interest. he wants to get better but not be in an environment where he is judged. he is ok for me to show him techniques but will want to practice on his own.

bottom line is from my experience, there is no one thing that will work. rather you need to understand your child and work with them rather than push them. At 6 I'd suggest be patient, do it when he wants and relax when he doesn't. make it fun. My daughter's desire to do things has increased with time, at 6 practice was not something she wanted to do, now she will spend hours doing it. but even then there are good days and bad. 

 

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Michaël Van den Berg

This is an interesting topic. My son is 3 (almost 4) and he is what we call in Dutch 'hoogbegaafd' (I don't know the English word for it but it means he has a very high IQ and EQ). Most people assume that being highly intelligent has lots of advantages but that is not always true. Many of these kids are not challenged at all in the regular educational system and as a result they are very likely to underperform. Another thing is that very often, they are allergic to 'practicing'. My son is very motivated to do things that he initiated himself (which he sees as 'play') but as soon as we try to introduce him to something new he will simply say: 'I don't want to try it because I don't know how to do it' (i.e., he does not want to fail) and there's no way we can even get him to try. I would really like to expose him to some sports when he's a bit older but I already know that we can't push him *at all*. We can ony provide a safe environment in which he can discover what he likes and try to nurture it. Like Jared says: there's no one thing that will work. You need to understand your child and work with them rather than push them.

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Étienne Lajeunesse

As a former Taekwon-Do coach who worked with kids from 4 to 12 for some years, I learned a lot by experience. So here's my two cents.

Some will like something, some will like other things and I think it's important for them to experience activities.  I had young ones who stayed because they really liked doing martial arts and others stayed because their parents told them to.  In general, the last ones end up quitting.

Sometimes, it's not even the activity, but it could be the coach or the environment too.  So, communication is best here.

Lack of discipline can also occur, so improving it and the help we can offer to them can increase their motivation.  Some will need more attention. Some will lack the confidence to learn something harder.  So we need to get them to understand how the process works and do our best to give them what they NEED.

In the end, as long as the child as fun, it usually works.  If he/she does not, try to find why and adjust with him/her.

But yeah, forcing them to do something, is the worst thing according to me, it doesn't motivate them.  You can push them to try something, but not to keep practicing something if they don't like.

One last thing, the modern era of multiple activities in a week, even days does not necessarily help kids, they have to have free times for themselves.  The thing is to balance everything.

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Paul Gray

OK some really great advice there centering around keeping it fun and not putting any pressure on them.

I might see if I can set him some fun challenges, try and make a game out if it. But not push him.

Something else I might try is doing a little training with him - he can be very competitive, so will see if he tries to beat me.

But is that teaching him self discipline? .. I need to look further into that :)

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Paul Gray
20 hours ago, Bill Marr said:

The biggest reason for the decline in participation, especially at the younger ages (U12 and below) is that they no longer have fun. In today's competitive world, everyone's son is the next Lionel Messi. Every year specialised training in our sport starts at a younger age. Kids 9 year-old are being cut from teams, told they aren't good enough. This causes a mass exodus from the sport as it's no longer fun for many of the kids.

You made some really interesting points Bill.

I see this 10 year old 'national champion' training at his club who is already doing some incredible things on rings and already competing....my son has much to do if he wants to match that.

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