My best friend in high school was a brilliant sportswoman. She could play any sport well, but she was incredibly humble. I was appalling at sport and I was in awe of her ability. I knew whenever she had an important race or match coming up and I wished her well and congratulated her profusely after a win. But while I thought I was being incredibly supportive, I later learned that all she felt was pressure.
Looking back, I can see that she had every reason to feel frustrated by my behaviour. Whenever she did well in the school swimming or athletics carnival, I would be enthusing about the inter-school competition coming up. When she did well against other schools, I was already assuring her that she would do well at state level. In other words, I didn’t allow her to feel pleased with what she had achieved, because I was pushing her to do better and go further. In the end, she stopped telling me how she performed and I learned to stop asking. I’m sorry that I didn’t know how to be a more supportive friend, but I’m glad it happened because it has helped me to be a more supportive mum.
When our children do well at school or on the sports field or on the stage, we need to congratulate them and let them bask in the glory of the day. We don’t need to talk about their capacity to do more or go further. We don’t need to get them a super coach or enrol them in extra courses so that they will reach their full potential. Our job is to help them find what they’re passionate about and if we accidentally put too much pressure on them, we may be destroying that passion. If they ask for added help or extra challenges, we can decide if we’re able to give them more. But in the meantime, a win’s a win and there’s a lot to be learned from a loss and that’s about it.