Suit Your Style

Years ago I complained to my father about how a certain coach motivated his players. My father replied that coaches can’t be expected to tailor their personality and approach to dozens of athletes. Coaches expect players to adapt to their style.

That makes sense when managing large teams.

But it doesn’t make a lot of sense when managing children. Yet that’s what I spent the first few years as a father doing. I wanted to be fair. So I approached each of them in the same manner, assuming the same methods would work for all four children.

For the past several weeks we’ve been taking our kids to a local swimming pool. None of our children have been around water much, and each of them is just beginning to learn to swim. Lincoln likes to play tag in the pool. He learns by swimming around the pool in all directions trying anything to avoid being tagged.

Anna is comfortable diving under the water. She prefers to tell me what she’s going to do and asking me to watch her. She pushes herself to improve and is thrilled when Kim or I watch her learn something new.

Last week, I felt that Luca wasn’t making as much progress as the others. I asked if she wanted to play tag. Nope. I asked if she wanted to jump off the side of the pool. Nope. Nothing I suggested was of interest to her.

She didn’t want to swim to the deeper end of the pool either and clung to her mother when I asked. I left her alone for a few minutes. Eventually she came to me and asked if she could swim to me. It was her idea, not mine. She’d cling to the side of the pool until I moved twenty feet away. She’d then let go and swim to me. She did this over and over until she made good progress. She’s had to work harder at this than her siblings, but she’s coming along well.

I’m beginning to understand that each of my children have unique personalities although we are part of the same family. I can’t act like the coach of a large team and expect each of them react the same way to my way of helping or motivating.

It would be a lot easier to treat them all the same. But I wouldn’t get to know them as well.