For you parents with little golfers ages 3 to 5 and maybe even beyond those ages, we need to talk about parent aggravation and frustration. There is going to come a time when your little golfer is going to give less than the effort he or she should. It’s not a matter of if, it’s going to be a matter of when. Every single one of us will encounter this at some point and time. My time came last week during my daughter’s golf class.
Our daughter is enrolled into a kids golf clinic called “Little Tigers” which is held on Saturdays. It’s a golf clinic designed for kids ages 3-5, and the curriculum is very basic. There are no complicated instructions — it’s basically designed to have kids involved in golf and to be around other kids their age. The class is 45 minutes long and is usually broken into two halves. The first half of the class is geared around hitting irons and drivers. The second half is focused on putting.
Friday night we had snow fall, with about 3 inches of accumulation in Indiana. When she woke up and saw the snow she did what all kids do when they see the fluffy white stuff everywhere: She jumped up and down and asked if she could go out and play in it. My wife said to our daughter that we can play in the snow after golf school. My daughter and I arrived to class today, paid our registration fee and headed out to the heated tees.
Now, I am not a big fan of having these young kids hit outside during the winter even if the tee’s are heated. So I had sympathy when my daughter said to me:
“Daddy I don’t want to hit outside, I want to stay in here.” I replied with, “Sweetheart we won’t be out there very long and look the rest of your class is already walking out.” So we headed to the heated tees.
Normally, we share a mat with another student and the kids hit four balls and rotate. Last week, we had our own mat and didn’t need to rotate. I thought to myself that this was better because she can get antsy waiting for her turn. I could tell early on that she wasn’t into hitting balls that. She had what I call “wondering eyes” — she was more concerned about everything else around her except the ball we were hitting. Her swings were half-hearted and there wasn’t any effort in trying to hit the ball.
My daughter was able to finish her bucket of balls (which is about 20 balls total) and during those 20 swings, she asked if she could go onto the range and touch the snow. She used her driver as a microphone and was singing into it and was dancing. All typical acts of a normal 3 year old. The only problem was that we were on a driving range and not at home in the family room where she likes to entertain the audience.
Well, since we had our own mat, we finished before the rest of the kids. My daughter was sitting on my lap trying to stay warm and she looks at me and said, “Daddy I want to go home now.” I said, “Honey, we are getting ready to go inside and play the putting game.” I thought that might make her change her mind since that’s what she wanted to do in the first place. She then says again “No Daddy, I just want to leave now.”
So I was in that uncomfortable place that all parents visit from time to time. I wanted to say, “Class is not over and we need to wait until we are finished before we leave,” and at the same time I didn’t want to force her into doing something she didn’t want to do. So we grabbed her bag and headed to the car.
As I loaded up the car, I could feel the aggravation building inside of me. My daughter has never walked out of anything midway through. She takes gymnastics, and never once left in the middle of a session. At this point, I was in complete shock that we were leaving. So on the way home, we made our stop at Dunkin’ Donuts (we do this after class each time — in the summer we get ice cream and in the winter we get hot chocolate and munchkins). I didn’t want her to think she was being punished for not finishing class. On the way to Dunkin’ Donuts she asked me if she did good.
Now, this is where I make my biggest mistake during this whole incident, I replied “You were doing great until you quit and wanted to leave.” Not even realizing the negativity of the word “quit.” I was so aggravated and frustrated about having to leave in the middle of class that it slipped right out.
She said: “I didn’t quit Daddy.” I replied: “We left before class was over, that’s quitting,” and she replied, “I’m not a quitter.”
I can’t begin to tell you how embarrassed I am to be telling you that those words came out of my mouth. Shame on me! I know better than to use a negative word like “quit.” What I should have said was “You did great, you hit all the balls in the bucket” and followed up with “I wish we could have stayed longer and gone inside to play the putting games with the rest of the class, maybe next week we can stay longer.” So when we get home my wife asked our daughter how golf went and my daughter says “I quit Mommy.” My wife said, “What do you mean you quit? We don’t quit sweetheart” My daughter then said, “No Mommy, I quit and came home.” My wife gives me the what-did-you-say-to-our-daughter-on-the-way-home look. So I had to explain to her what I said and how it slipped out.
I am sharing this story with you because I want you to understand how one negative word can affect your child. She finished her bucket of balls and instead of staying positive, I expressed a negative feeling because of my aggravation. Now my daughter viewed herself as a quitter and not having a feeling of accomplishment for doing so. I can tell you this, it feels horrible inside to hear your daughter say she’s a quitter when asked how golf class went. She now associated today’s class as a failure rather than a sense of accomplishment. So now instead of class being fun (which is what I have been pushing this whole time, to keep it fun) I now took the fun out of it with one word.
I had all day to think about why my daughter didn’t want to finish class and there are several factors that play a role in this.
1. She expressed immediately that she didn’t want to hit outside.
2. Because we didn’t have to share a mat, she was hitting ball after ball after ball. She didn’t get her break while the other child hit his four balls. The activity became monotonous for her.
3. She had playing in the snow on her mind all day and couldn’t wait to get back home so she could go out and play in it. That explains why there wasn’t an effort to hit balls.
4. When we putt inside, there is a bell that rings when you sink a putt (like a reward for making a putt go in). Outside on the range, there’s no sense of accomplishment when you hit the ball well. There are no targets or flags set up close enough for these little kids to strive for. That makes hitting outside not fun for her.
You add up numbers one through four and what do you get? Not fun, and what’s the No. 1 factor that has to remain for kids to be interested in golf? FUN!! We have to keep it fun for them to stay active in this sport. I failed today in keeping it fun. I ignored the fact that she said she didn’t want to go outside and hit. Golf already lost the battle from the start. She had no desire to even want to be there in the first place. She said she wanted to stay inside and putt — I should have asked if she could skip hitting outside and see if it was OK to hit into the one of the indoor nets and then moved onto putting.
I hope my experience from this event helps you understand that what we say to our children can really affect how they feel about golf or anything else in life. We need to concentrate on what we say and even though frustration and aggravation is getting the best of us, we have to remain positive. There were plenty of positives from the 20 balls that she hit and I let frustration get the better of me and left a negative impression on my daughter.
As I tucked her into bed for the night I whispered in her ear, “I had fun today watching you hit balls,” and she gave me a kiss and a hug and said, “I had fun with you too, Daddy.” Hopefully she forgives me.