A note from Badger Parent Advocate, Mike Conaton:

I’m reading a great book, Out of Habit, about Sister Rose Ann Fleming who is the Academic Advisor and Guidance Counselor for the Xavier University men’s basketball program.  Xavier takes academics and graduation very seriously and for the last 30 years Sister Rose Ann has been working with some of Xavier’s athletes who are a bit out of practice when it comes to the classroom.  Sister Rose Ann, the former President of Trinity College with three masters, a PhD and a law degree, would actually say she met her greatest career challenges while unlocking the potential of these student athletes. 

My favorite lesson in the book so far is a simple one – kids perform better if they think the teacher “likes them” in a “comfortable” environment.  Sister Rose Ann tells the story of the basketball player who was skipping classes and struggling with the work.  After much probing, it turns out the big seven-footer was actually quite sensitive and thought that the teacher didn’t like him, ignored him and favored other non-basketball athletes in the class.  Somehow the high profile player felt he was taken for granted.  The teacher never asked him how he did or commented on his frequent TV appearances.   The only reference to his basketball was to ask him if he had done his homework during his absences while traveling. He was uncomfortable and insecure, and while his hurt feelings were probably irrational and immature, guess what, kids are often irrational and immature.  Sister Rose Ann points out that “students learn better when they know you like them.  If young people don’t think you like them, if you don’t respect the abilities they have, they will shut you out.  They care”.  It can be as simple as a smile or an acknowledging “hello”.  

Certainly there is a message here for teachers and coaches, but how does this translate for a parent of a swimmer?   Not only do we “like” our kids, of course we love them. But I think an extrapolated point of the story is the notion of creating an environment in which the kids can feel comfortable and thrive.  

Best I can describe it is trying to be conscious of a certain consistency, or harmony.  I’m not going too far as I’m not here to talk about parenting skills and technique.  I’m just pointing out the observation I’ve had over time, for what it’s worth, that our household seems to function better when we have our act together, which certainly varies from time to time! I will admit that our good times, not so good times, laughs, disagreements…could sometimes be contagious and set the tone for the whole household, whether we realized it or not.

This general vibe at home can probably also explain some of the interaction with the kids…I’m just looking back thinking about the car rides home from work out, the dinner conversations, the TV breaks…as frustratingly uncommunicative (or sometimes confrontational) as they could be (think tired, cranky teenager)…were probably just important breaks and down times during exhaustingly busy schedules that we may have gotten in the way of every once in a while, causing (perhaps unnecessary), dis-harmony. I remind myself, that obviously we’re the parents and of course we should act accordingly, but maybe there’s an element of perspective and/or battle picking that can be applied to promote that consistency and harmony to the day to day.

I’ve read, and I’m aware that kids are influenced by their environment. Maybe we were imagining it, but if things were “good” at home, it seemed the kids were in a better place at school, and even the pool. Insert your own various and relative definitions for “good” and hopefully you get my general, non-judgmental point. In any event, suffice to say that I’ll add for all of us, “it ain’t always easy”, to my recurring cry, “parents are awesome”!

Michael Conaton, Badger Swim Club Inc. and Badger Swimming Inc. accept no liability for the content of this article, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.

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