Do these 5 things and you will succeed with Kids

Jeffrey Beedy Ed.D


Positive Learning Using Sports

Kids are magical and say the funniest things. After a long day of spring skiing on a sunny day in Maine, I stopped by the locker room to shower and change. I remember overhearing a father talking with his five-year old son about their day in the other room. The very proud father said, “Wow, I can’t believe what you accomplished today. You tried out your new skis. You and I went up on the chairlift for the first time. After a couple of tries, you were able to get off the chairlift without me having to hold you. You skied to the bottom of the lift by yourself. I knew you were going to be able to ski the beginner slope, but you surprised me when you skied to go up the next lift that was a T-bar. T-bars are very difficult even for older children and with a couple of tries we made it to the top. I am most amazed with the fact you skied down the expert trail. You made great turns and learned how to stay in control. I am so proud of you. We skied together. Today, it was just you and I, Father and son. We enjoyed each other on this beautiful sunny day. What did you like best, the Dad queried?” The small child thought for a moment and replied, “the donuts”!

The child’s world

This story is funny and illustrates that sometimes adults and children experience the world differently. Although the ski experience was a positive one for both the Dad and the child, the child viewed the ski experience differently from his father. This story reflects my experience observing youth programs around the globe and goals the adults often have for the children.

Lessons are taught and caught

The coach or parent might want to teach respect (while he is yelling at the ref) but what the youngsters are learning is often quite different. It is one thing to know how what is important is taught. But as Coach Wooden states, “you have not taught until the children have learned” . In other words until the children have caught what is important. That is the difference between being taught and caught. As teachers we need to better understand how children view the world and how we must learn how to understand and respect where they are developmentally.

Understand the child’s world

To teach children we must first understand children. Knowing how children view the world will help how we chose the way we teach and coach. We also need to understand how other important aspects such as gender, ability, and interest impact how children learn. In this sense we need to learn how what is important is caught.

From the child’s perspective

Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.”

Maria Montessori

The sports world can learn a lot about child development from great educator such as Maria Montessori. Over the past decade I have led two Montessori schools for elementary and middle school children. The Montessori method is founded on a deep respect and understanding of how children learn and develop. It is true; sports and school are two different activities in a child’s life. Both school and sports have one important thing in common — the child. There is certainly room for debate around how much to draw from the Montessori method and apply to sports. I deeply believe that the Montessori approach is more respectful to children than most sport programs I have witnessed.

Respect the child

The most compelling Montessori principle that undergirds the adult child relationship is explained in the following quote. “Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.” Whether we are teaching math or soccer the common thread is the child. In all educational environments, we need to understand how the child thinks and feels to be effective teachers. This is the central foundation of the child-centered education approach. The Montessori approach to child development creates a respectful culture in which to teach. When children feel safe, listened to and respected the likelihood of helping the child realize their potential is improved.

A deep respect for the child

During my years at the Montessori schools, I seldom witnessed yelling or disrespect. Instead, I experienced laughter and joy. Teachers developed respectful methods, such as color and number games, to direct children to line up after recess. This may sound simple — but it worked, and, even more important, the children were almost always ready to learn. The children felt empowered and moved quickly and confidently through their assignments and challenges. The most obvious reason for this phenomenon is that the teachers began with a deep respect for the child. This alone empowers the children. The end result is that there is more time for learning. The Montessori teachers worked methodically to create effective methods to motivate the children to do their work. Children perform better in an environment free of criticism. The sport environment can learn from this respectful approach to child development. Do these 5 things and you will succeed with children.

1. Respect the child

2. Understand the child’s world

3. Ask questions and listen to what they say

4. Be sure you understand how feel

5. Make sure they caught what you thought you taught

​Dr. Beedy is a leader in the field of child development. At Harvard, he studied with psychologists Lawrence Kohlberg and Pulitzer Prize winner Dr. Robert Coles

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