Athletic Instructors and Dance Teachers Say:
Do it for the love of the game. "To get your kids to embrace sports or some other after-school activity, it's important not to overstress accomplishment," says Anne Josephson, founder and director of the Josephson Academy of Gymnastics, in Los Angeles. "If you stress competition over enjoyment, no one wins." And your child will probably burn out and hang up her leotard.
Not everyone needs a trophy. "Parents don't want their kids to experience pain, so even the losing team gets a medal," says Josephson. Letting kids think that everyone wins every time isn't giving them a realistic view of the future. "Losses teach children to cope," says Josephson.
Be the cheerleader, not the coach. "The number one job of parents is to encourage the kids in their sport. No matter what level of expertise a parent has, he shouldn't give his child coaching advice," says Matt Daly, the director of tournament training at the Tennis Club of Trumbull, in Trumbull, Connecticut. "The more a parent tries to instruct, the more it can frustrate the kid." If you want to help your child practice, ask the coach for advice (or run your techniques by him) when your son or daughter is not around; your child will be happier not knowing that Dad is dissecting his swing, says Daly.
Start ballet before other kinds of dance. "Ballet is a good foundation for all other forms of dance. Grace and poise are established early on," says Charlotte Blume, owner of the Charlotte Blume School of Dance and director of the North Carolina State Ballet, in Fayetteville, North Carolina. "Young children exposed to basic ballet will perform better in every other type of dance, as well as in sports."
Don't watch practice. Whether it's during dance class or soccer drills, parents sitting on the sidelines are distracting to their children. "If the parents are around, the children aren't paying attention to what they're doing or to the teacher. They are wondering if Mom or Dad likes what they're doing," says Suzanne Pomerantzeff, director of the Academy of Ballet Arts, in St. Petersburg, Florida.