Saturday, January 14, 2012

Driving Towards Self-Confidence

Originally Published on the Chicago Moms blog

When our girls arrive at a driving range to hit balls, people look at them with the “isn’t that cute” look. I agree that it is really cute to see them carrying their golf bags as they head towards the practice mats. I saw that look again when we arrived at the covered sports dome in our area. Several retired men and one woman were hitting golf balls across the astroturf that doubles as a soccer field. They stopped and gave the “so cute” half smile when the girls walked by.

The girls took out their clubs and started hitting balls. The “isn’t that cute” look on the man practicing his putting behind us turned dark when I critiqued their efforts with an annoyed clip of “Focus. Line up the ball. Keep control of your club. Make an effort, please?” Now the retired man behind me was giving me a disapproving look. It was clear that he thought I was being too hard on the girls. After all, what did I expect from such young girls? At least, that’s what I’m sure he would have said if I had been talking to him.

Our brunette twin responded by whacking the ball across the AstroTurf. It arched. It floated. It went far. It was pretty to watch. It was what I had watched her do many, many times during her golf lessons. I knew that was what her practice shots should look like.

I said, “That is pretty. It is exactly how I know you can hit it. Now do it again.” She proceeded to hit four or five just like it with a big smile on her face. The girl can golf when she makes an effort and she knows it. Of course, she also knows she’ll get compliments from strangers just because she’s a young girl on a golf course. I’ve stood there when people tell her what a nice job she’s doing when she takes a terrible stroke. I disagree — just because she’s on the golf course doesn’t mean she deserves a compliment — but I don’t say anything.

I’m happy to compliment our girls, but they have to earn it. They don’t live in a house where we tell them they are perfect or that everything they do is wonderful. We push them to the limits of their abilities because we think they can do it. Until they achieve something, they don’t hear empty praise.

Too often I hear parents telling their children that everything they do is great, perfect, wonderful, awesome. I’m all for building their self confidence, but real self-confidence comes from earning praise through real effort. Notice I didn’t say earning praise comes through success. Our girls don’t always succeed, but at least they truly try.

There’s no point making them think that think that they will get anything without hard work and focus. When they truly earn something, we celebrate. When they need help, we provide it. In between, we teach them that only through learning and practice will they get to be good at anything. As I watched the girls hit golf balls across the astroturf, I knew they understood the lesson, even if they didn’t understand how important it was yet.

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