Get the App

How can I encourage my children without competing with them?

by Andy Puddicombe

  • Share

Hi Andy — I’ve been meditating for approximately 10 months and feel much more aware. One area that I struggle with is watching my daughter and son play competitive sports. I am a very competitive person and I struggle with finding that balance of teaching my kids about how to play their particular sport while always linking the lessons learned to life experiences. Watching them play is much more difficult than actually playing the sport.

When I play a competitive sport, I am able to get into the flow of the game and use my adrenaline and competitiveness to my advantage. But watching them, I am fully involved emotionally and feel like I have no outlet to release this adrenaline. I know that I am much too critical with their performances and find it challenging to balance their desire to be the best at their particular sport and enjoying the journey which is full of the good and bad.

I don’t want to paint the wrong picture of some lunatic dad on the sidelines screaming at his kids because that is not the case. However, I am much too tense and am really not enjoying the games. I appreciate any insight you can provide.

* * *

I’m sure there must be many meditating parents out there who have experienced something very similar while standing on the touchlines. So I would begin by asking yourself, in a very open and non-judgmental way, where that sense of drive comes from. What is the motivation? Is it for the children to succeed? Is it for you to succeed as an extension to your children? What level of importance is attached to winning? Is winning equated with success? Is success equated with happiness? Reflecting on some of these fundamental questions can be useful.

Ultimately, what we experience internally, we tend to project onto the people and the world around us. So, if we are highly driven and competitive ourselves, then we will quite likely project that on to those that we care about. After all, if we want to succeed in that thing, we will naturally want them to succeed in that same thing. But it works both ways and there is much we can learn about our internal world in witnessing how we relate to the world around us.

Given we are talking about competitive sport here, it is obviously good to experience a sense of healthy ambition. The difficulty begins, as a spectator at least, when we become too attached to the result. Yes, of course, we want to win, but we also need a sense of perspective which allows us to acknowledge and embody the fact that it really doesn’t matter that much if we don’t. Once we relinquish our grip on the importance of winning, we begin to enjoy watching the game for what it is, rather than for what we want it to be. As for the kids, they no longer feel under pressure to perform to an unrealistic standard and will, in all likelihood, perform even better as a result.

In short, some of the best play and best support ever demonstrated in the world of sport has come from a place of calm focus, where the ability to embrace loss is seen as every bit as important as celebrating success. In fact, I would say the very best in the world have transcended the dualistic world of hope and fear, winning and losing altogether. Instead, they just play, free from any such concept. It’s what makes them exceptional.

Warm wishes,

Learn more about Headspace for Sport:

Andy Puddicombe

Andy Puddicombe is a meditation and mindfulness expert. An accomplished presenter and writer, Andy is the voice of all things Headspace. In his early twenties, midway through a university degree in Sports Science, Andy made the unexpected decision to travel to the Himalayas to study meditation instead. It was the beginning of a ten-year journey which took him around the world, culminating with ordination as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Northern India. His transition back to lay life in 2004 was no less extraordinary. Training briefly at Moscow State Circus, he returned to London where he completed a degree in Circus Arts with the Conservatoire of Dance and Drama, whilst drawing up the early plans for what was later to become Headspace.