Participation in team sports presents kids with a slew of advantages, from encouraging physically active pursuits to teaching the basic tenets of teamwork and good sportsmanship. Enrolling your child in youth soccer can be one of the most exciting and rewarding decisions the two of you ever make, but it can also be a challenge if your child isn’t quite ready for his first youth soccer experience.
Talk to His Coach
One of the most reliable and effective ways of determining your child’s readiness level when it comes to youth soccer is to have a frank and open conversation with the team’s coach. Make sure that the coach understands that you’re looking for and prepared for the truth, not seeking a well-meaning and reassuring fib. Return the favor by accepting his evaluation with grace, even if it’s not what you want to hear at the moment. Remember, the worst he can do is tell you that your child isn’t quite ready. It’s not the end of the world, or his only chance to participate in youth soccer. Spend the season working together to hone his skills, then encourage him to make the tryout again next enrollment.
Keep His Physical Development Level in Mind
Your child might be a remarkably agile and deft little kicker sometimes, but it’s important to note that his visual tracking acuity isn’t fully developed until he’s nine years old. Before he reaches the age of nine, long kicks might be difficult for him to track. Before you get discouraged at what appears to be blatant disregard, remember that your child’s eyes aren’t as developed as yours. Watch his teammates for a while and you’ll see that most of them exhibit the exact same difficulties. Until their vision catches up with their ambition, there will be plenty of repeat occurrences.
Wait For Him to Exhibit an Interest
Youth soccer teams run the gamut from very relaxed to more competitive, but one thing that most teams will have in common is that there’s at least one child that wishes he were somewhere else. If your child is obviously distracted and disinterested, it may not be an indicator that he has no aptitude for sports. He may just not be ready to play on a competitive level, and his interest could grow on its own. Forcing him into participation, though, is a surefire way to ensure that he never has any love for the game he sees as an obligation.
He Must Walk Before He Can Run
When you enroll your child in youth soccer for the first time, you may be surprised to see that he spends more time running than playing when he’s at practice. This isn’t because his coach is lazy or mean; it’s because kids can’t control a soccer ball until they can control their own bodies. At a young age, gross and fine motor skills are still developing, Just because your child isn’t actively working on developing ball skills during his first practice doesn’t mean he’s not learning anything, and failure to pick those skills up right away if they’re taught at home are likely an indicator that his body is still developing the skills it needs to master soccer, not a lack of effort.
Consider the Attitude of the Team Overall
Youth soccer can be just as competitive as older kids’ teams sometimes, and it’s important that you have an idea of what you’re signing on for before your child dons his jersey. Examine the youth soccer program in your area, and ask around about the teams in your city. Look for teams headed up by coaches that are more invested in helping kids learn the basics while having fun, especially if your rookie player is a bit older. The last thing you want is for your child to end up on a highly competitive team that he feels like he’s incapable of keeping up with, so make sure that you take the attitude of the team into account when you’re deciding if your child is mature enough to rise to the soccer challenge.
Once upon a time, not all that long ago, bullying was considered a rite of passage and generally dismissed by adults as “kids being kids.” As more and more tormented kids take drastic measures in a desperate bid to end the pain they suffer at the hands of playground bullies that attack during recess and daily school breaks, however, adults are beginning to understand the deep importance of the issue. Still, it’s not always easy to know the best ways of handling a playground bully from an adult perspective.
Talk To Your Children
If you suspect that your child is the victim of a bully, the first step is to talk to her about what she’s experiencing. Kids are often reticent when it comes to talking about the humiliation that comes with being bullied, so the conversation is one that you should approach delicately. Make sure that your child understands she should never physically retaliate against a bully, and that it’s okay to go to a teacher if she feels threatened. She also needs to know that what she’s experiencing is not her fault. If you have more than one school-aged child, it may also pay to talk to her siblings about what’s happening while they’re at school. Siblings can be a font of knowledge regarding the social intricacies of schoolyard interactions, and can help you get a more detailed picture of what’s happening.
Contact the Appropriate Adults
In some cases, a simple call or email to the parents of your child’s tormentor will be enough to put a stop to the bully’s actions. When you’re not able to contact a parent or contacting them doesn’t net real results, however, your next step should be a meeting with your child’s teacher and school administrators. Most campuses have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to bullying, and will do everything within their power to put a stop to such behavior.
Monitor Social Media Usage
Dealing With Very Young Playground Bullies
When the bully in question is a preschooler on the playground at a neighborhood park, the situation becomes even more delicate. In a perfect world, the parent or childcare provider of a bullying youngster would be alert and engaged, noticing the child’s behavior and taking steps to correct it before things get out of hand. More often than not, however, a mom or nanny is so wrapped up in her conversation or smartphone that she pays no heed to what’s happening on the playground. There’s certainly no rule against explaining to a small child that his behavior isn’t nice, but those words aren’t likely to have much impact when they come from a stranger. Calmly obtaining the parent or childcare provider’s attention in order to respectfully explain the situation is your best bet. Be sure that you’re calm and collected before you approach the adult that’s responsible, however, as it’s easy to lose your cool when tensions run high. If all else fails, separate your child from the situation and move to another part of the playground. Lengthy conversations about bullying aren’t likely to stick with a very small child, so it’s better to just remove him from the area to avoid further confrontation.
How to Deal When Your Child is the Bully
Few things are as disheartening and humiliating as learning that your child is a playground bully. Being called into the office by the principal to deal with allegations of bullying or facing the ire of a mom whose child has been victimized by yours at the park is never pleasant, and can cause you to feel rather insecure regarding your parenting style. It’s important that you swallow any of your own feelings on the subject that could interfere with approaching your child and confronting her bullying habits. A long conversation about what bullying is, why it’s wrong and how it can hurt people will usually be enough to help a young and misguided child see the error of his ways.
The mental image of your darling girl twirling gracefully across a stage in her fabulous costume, only to receive a standing ovation and be pelted with flowers at the end of her performance is a dizzying one, indeed. For many parents, however, the primary goal after enrolling their daughter into dance classes is to help her become more confident, to promote coordination and to help her cultivate a physically active hobby that will offset the sedentary pastimes that today’s kids are so fond of. Most dance instructors will accept kids as young as the toddler stage, though the minimum age limit isn’t always a reliable indicator of readiness. As with so many other things in life, your child will mature at her own pace and may not fall in line with her peers when it comes to dance class readiness. These tips and hints will help you determine when and if your child is ready for dance classes.
Is She Potty Trained?
While some dance instructors will accept very young children for toddler dance classes, it’s important that your child is potty trained before she signs up. Diapers and dance classes just don’t mix, so it’s wise to hold off on enrolling your budding prima ballerina until she’s fully potty trained. Keep in mind, too, that kids who are new to potty training may have accidents when they’re distracted by the excitement of a new and engaging environment, and that you’ll want to be available in case she comes to you with a need to use the restroom. Those leotards sure are cute, but they’re not always easy for little hands to manage properly when nature calls.
Are You Prepared to Stay Through Classes?
As your daughter gets older and more accustomed to the environment of her dance academy, you may notice that more and more of her peers are being dropped off by parents that return to fetch them after class. Beginners and very young students, however, will almost always need to have a parent or caregiver on-hand when they begin dance classes. If you’re not in a position to hang around the studio until the end of class and don’t have a reliable caregiver that’s willing to do so, it’s usually best to hold off on leaving your child alone in a new environment at such a young age.
Is There a Studio in Your Area That’s a Good Fit?
There may be a few different options in your area when it comes to dance studios for little ones, but that doesn’t mean that your daughter is ready to attend any of them. More competitive studios may push even their very young students harder than she’s comfortable with, which could delay her readiness when it comes to the available options in your area. Be sure that your child is not only up to the physical and behavioral challenge of dance classes, but also that she’s ready to withstand the environment in the one you’ve chosen.
Can She Follow Directions?
A dance instructor with experience in dealing with toddler and preschool aged students will understand that no youngster follows directions perfectly all of the time, but it’s still important that your daughter is able to be reasonably open to direction. If she struggles to follow instructions at home more often than not, it’s probably not a good idea to throw her into a situation in which her success depends solely upon her ability to do so.
Consider Her Emotional Readiness
Some kids are naturally more gregarious and outgoing than their peers, while others are painfully shy and tend to cling to the shadows. If your daughter falls into the latter camp and is still very young, the social aspect of dance classes is likely to be very scary for her. Regardless of her age, if your daughter is not capable of handling relatively large group situations well, it’s best to wait until she’s gained a bit more confidence.
Is “Mommy and Me” an Option?
A growing number of dance schools are offering “Mommy and Me” toddler classes that encourage little ones to participate in dance class, help to boost awareness of their own bodies and to foster creative expression while Mom participates alongside them. This can be a very effective introduction to the world of structured dance classes, as she will gradually become less dependent upon your presence without feeling that she’s been thrown to the proverbial wolves in terms of participation. If you have lingering doubts about your young daughter’s readiness and these classes are available, you may find that she’s more prepared for dance classes than you initially thought.