As a parent you may underestimate the power of your child's peers on their performance.
I've talked separately about bullies and how they make your child feel in relation to their abilities, but what about their peers. Those school mates, friends even who are part of their every day.
We often see those children as such a normal part of our child's life that we don't stop to think about how what they say or do, impacts our son or daughter.
The Positive Impact of Peer Pressure
Let's first dive into the positive impact of having these peers in their life.
If your child's peers are confident and successful in their hockey, then your child will likely strive to be the same. They will look at their friend and say "Yeah, I can do that too" and go for it.
They might even strive to be just like their best friend, because he or she made the rep team, for example.
As long as their is that sense of that peer being equal in your child's mind, things will be okay.
The Negative Impact of Peer Pressure
But, what happens if it tips and that's not the case?
If your child looks at those peers and sees them as better than they are, then they begin to tell themselves that they aren't as good as [insert friend/peers name here].
This leads to a downward spiral in belief about their own natural abilities, and their willingness to even try begins to diminish.
And then there's the comments that these peers might make. It could only take one simple, what might seem innocent comment from a peer for your child to want to quit hockey all together.
There's a fine line between those bullying style comments and the ones made where the child (peer) speaks their truth, but it is taken by your child to mean a lot more.
I'm sure you as an adult have experienced this. You and a friend are talking. They make a comment about something you've done and before you know it you're in the depths of despair believing that you're no good at whatever it was, at all, and you shouldn't have ever tried it.
Sound familiar? Well, that's what could happen with your child too. The only difference is they don't have the wherewithal to know how to respond and take what their peer said with a grain of salt.
The comment isn't about your child after all, it's about the speaker, but your child doesn't know that.
Peer pressure can also have your child try something or go all out with something that could be unsafe for them. This happens because they want to prove themselves as good enough.
How To Neutralize the Impact of Peer Pressure
Here's how to change this.
1. Work on supporting your child so they feel completely okay with who they are and their play. The more they stay within themselves and not compare themselves to their peers the better.
2. Have open conversations with your child about saying 'No' because what is being asked of them doesn't feel okay for them. Your child's gut instinct would be to say "No, I'm not going to do that" and yet they don't follow their inner intuition and do it because they think they will be seen as weak or a coward if they don't.
Conversations that use your own examples to talk about why it's not valuable to operate this way, are valuable.
3. Above all else be honest with your praise for your child. Tell them they tried hard; that you saw how much effort they put in. Talk to them about their effort and how it is paying off by the improvements you are seeing. Be specific about those improvements.
If your child feels confident in themselves they won't need praise. But so many children aren't confident, so they more you can support what it takes to turn that around, the better.
Bottom line is, the more your child can be themselves without any impact, either positive or negative from their peers, the better.
Karen Cherrett is a Sports Mindset Coach who specializes in coaching hockey players. Karen coaches players to be more focused and play with ease, not stress. And their parents to support their child in the best possible way. Life playing hockey should be fun. Mindset matters. Mental health matters. Hockey should be fun, not emotionally overloading.