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With Expectation, Kids Will Always Perceive The Limitations

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Excerpted from the book Let Them Play: The Power & Joy of Mindful Sports Parenting. Copyright © 2016 by Jerry Lynch. Printed with permission from New World Library —

Regardless of your child’s level of participation in sports, his or her performance will be greatly influenced by expectations. What I’ve seen from over a lifetime working with athletes is that expectations produce unwanted pressure and consistently result in limited and subpar performances. It doesn’t matter if you expect good things or bad things. Expectations are all about the outcome and results, neither of which can be controlled, and this unproductive thinking therefore makes one tight, tense, and tentative, the holy trinity of self-destruction. Expectations come from many sources: they can be driven by coaches, especially those who need results to justify their existence; by overzealous parents seeking to inspire their kids (or perhaps vicariously live through them); by friends and teammates who only want to win; and oftentimes by the child, who may be caught in the trap of measuring self-worth by external success.

You can always still have fun by enjoying playing and the learning process, but if you are still mastering basic skills, you may not perform well. When children embody these types of expectations, taking them into their nervous systems, they relax, become calm, remain focused, and play their best. These are process expectations as opposed to outcome expectations. While this may seem counterintuitive, I have had remarkable success with this approach. It completely shifts one’s perspective and enhances all performance. According to the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching:

With expectation, one will always perceive the limitations. Evolved individuals act without expectation and succeed.

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