When people hear “cheerleader,” they tend to associate images of permanently peppy, happy people. And while cheerleaders definitely perform with smiles and exude confidence, it’s important to remember that external appearance is not necessarily indicative of what’s going on inside—and that positive just isn’t possible 100% of the time.
Cheerleaders, like anyone, are susceptible to negative thoughts and letting others’ perceptions and judgements weigh them down. Those negative forces influence some people more than others, and in these times where my Facebook feed is filled daily with stories about bullying and peer-shaming, it seems more important than ever to address the need for positivity.
You can throw 100 compliments, but odds are that your child isn’t just hearing the positive; they’re recalling the negatives, even though they’re likely far outnumbered. And it’s not just you; they remember negative reactions they’ve received from teachers, friends, teammates… Fact is, we can’t eliminate the negative from their lives, but we can teach our children about perception.
When something “bad” happens, there’s always an opportunity for growth. But it’s difficult for anyone – especially young children – to see opportunities. Instead, they notice the disappointment on your face or overhear a negative comment – and the self-dialogue that follows can diminish confidence as it continues.
Help your child to shift that dialogue to a positive one, rather than letting the negative get the better of them. Positive self-talk requires mindfulness and is a practice of turning the negative experiences into positive opportunities. This doesn’t mean that little Susie falls during her tumbling pass and you cheer, “Yay! Now you can do better next time!” But it does mean that you can discuss that fall with her to help her identify what went wrong and reshape it into an opportunity for resiliency. Help her to find an action – in this case, likely practice or even just trying again. Turn the message of “I blew it” into one of “I made a mistake – and that happens – and I’m working on that skill for a better outcome next time.”
Yes, bad things happen – some you can control and some you can’t. But by teaching your child to positive self-talk, they’ll not only build up resiliency for life, they’ll also bolster their confidence and naturally overcome so many of life’s challenges. From avoiding bullies to confidently walking out onto that floor to cheer, to performing a new stunt, to being vulnerable enough to try new things throughout their lives.
These are formative years. Positive self-talk isn’t just a toolbox skill; it creates fundamental shift in perception and how we see ourselves. Empower your child to create positive – even in the darkest of moments – and they’ll do well, no matter what life throws at them.
Natalie Vonlanthen is the owner of PCT Cheer and Tumble. She has worked with thousands of young women and men in her 30+ years of coaching.