The Best Way to Be Your Child’s Cheerleader

It’s Tuesday. It's your child’s favorite day of the week because it’s GYMNASTICS DAY! Your child loves gymnastics! He loves his teacher. She loves her friends in class. They love learning new skills.

But you go every week and watch class. You can see how much fun your child is having. You watch your child roll on the floor laughing with her friends. You watch him play “thumb-war” with another boy in class.

They aren’t listening! The teacher keeps calling their name. It's hard to watch. You just want to yell at your child to tell them to behave and listen!

Maybe your child is quiet and well behaved. She stands quietly in line following directions and she tries really hard. But all you see are bent legs on that cartwheel. His somersault is more like a log roll, and the teacher only corrects them once in a while.

You're thinking... The teacher is not watching. They must not see how my child is doing it incorrectly. I need to step in and give instructions from the sideline. “Get your legs straight!” “Point your toes!” You're just helping the teacher, right? 

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When a teacher limits the number of corrections that they share with a child, this is usually a sign of a good coach. While it may be hard to watch your kids make mistakes, your kids will usually benefit more if you cheer and support them rather than get involved coaching during class.

For little kids, ages 2-5, gymnastics class may be the first time a child ever has to wait their turn or stand in line. During class they learn how to follow directions and listen to someone other than a parent. Adapting to this is an important part of your child's development.

For older kids, gymnastics should be fun and positive as well as educational. Most teachers see when a child is doing a skill incorrectly. But, if the teacher criticized every move a child made or yelled corrections every single time a kid tried something, how much fun would that be? It is important for a teacher to teach and then let the child attempt a skill a few times before giving more critique. Your child is learning coordination and body control, which takes time.

When a parent “coaches” from the sideline, it typically hurts the child's experience.

  1. It embarrasses the child.
  2. It disrupts the class.
  3. It tells the child that you know more than the teacher and she should just listen to you.
  4. It takes the fun out of learning.
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There are still important ways that you can get involved to help your child have the best experience.

  1. If you have some helpful tips, try sharing them after class or even right before next week’s class.
  2. If you're concerned that the instructor is not doing a good job, that your child is not learning, or that there are safety issues, bring it to the attention of the front desk. There may be a simple explanation, or they may take your concerns to management and address the situation. 

If it seems like your child is not progressing, you can also try not watching class for a few weeks. When you return, you may be pleasantly surprised at how much your child is actually progressing! It’s sometimes hard to see if you are always there.

This is not to say that you should not be involved, but sometimes the best way a parent can be supportive is to smile and cheer.

Brett Wharton