With 22 Olympic medals, Michael Phelps has set a new record! Michael also now holds the record for having the most gold medals – 18. He is truly an incredible aquatic athlete getting a lot of world attention!
This week let’s take a look at one of Michael’s key supporters – his mom - Debbie Phelps. I always find it interesting to take a behind the scenes look at people who achieve greatness. Specifically, I am interested in language and ideas. So, this week is an excerpt of Debbie Phelps’ parenting ideas and talking style.
Interviewer: What types of ideas do you feel are important for raising a child?
Debbie Phelps: Kids, they need boundaries, limitations, routine and consistency.
That’s what I tried to do with Michael. Every day after school, he would put his back pack in the same place in our house, maybe go shoot some hoops, come in for a nutritious snack, and then pack his bag for swim practice. He followed his daily schedule on a regular basis. He knew his stuff had to be done in order to go swimming.
Interviewer: So did you say to him "Michael, you can't go to swimming unless your stuff is done?"
Debbie Phelps: The words "no" and "can't" aren't really in my vocabulary, so I would just say, "before you go to swimming, you need to do your work. Are you able to accomplish that?”
Interviewer: So swimming helped him get organized.
Debbie Phelps: Absolutely. Any sport teaches kids the characteristics and strengths they need - respect, responsibility, getting along with others, success, and taking unsuccessful moments and turning them around to something positive. The pool was really good for Michael. It's a huge rectangle with boundaries. In a pool, there are only so many places you can go. Just back and forth, back and forth. So he was always within his element, within his comfort zone.
With regards to raising a child, structured consistency in a safe environment seems to be one of the more important ideas for Debbie. Debbie feels that the sports, and particularly a swimming pool setting, are ideal growth environments along with ideas such as respect, responsibility, socialization, success, and creating positive situations from negative ones. Moreover, setting boundaries with a positive question style is another corner stone to Debbie’s beliefs. Debbie uses swimming as a reward tool. If your work (school work) is done, then you can go enjoy swimming.
“The words ‘no’ and ‘can't’ aren't really in my vocabulary…”
Debbie presents herself as a positive role model in that she avoids the use of ‘no’ and ‘can’t’. Michael was always told that he needed to finish his work first and then he could swim. An interesting, positive question Debbie used was: “Are you able to accomplish that?” In other words, Can you handle school and sports commitments at the same time? School comes first and sports next in Debbie’s thoughts. She could have said, “You can’t go swimming unless you finish your homework! or “No swimming until your homework is done!” Instead she talked to her young son, as a young adult. Debbie is firm but fair and positively oriented at the same time. Pretty cool! She is probably quite a positive, social person herself.
How about you? What do you think?
1.What do you think are important ideas for raising a child?
2.What are your personal experiences with sports and personal growth?
3.What are some positive ways we can ask or get people to do what we want/need without saying ‘no’ or ‘can’t’?
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