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“Making it to the top of a discipline is realistic if you put in enough passion, make life   choices that allow for a certain outcome and then try, think and train your way there.   So trying, thinking and training leads to relaxed and elegant performance is the motto   of our little world school.” 

Our kids are normal. Not overly smart or athletic, just normal healthy boys. We enjoy the  sweet glow of parental pride when they show some early promise and we are a little  concerned when they laze around or game a little too much for our liking - just like any  other parents. 

Our family may approach some things a little differently and what works for us and our  kids may not work for other families. We hope our reflections will inspire you to realise that  things can be approached a little differently and still work out just fine, and that you will  end up enjoying your kids and their athletic and academic pursuits in a little more relaxed  state of mind. 

Sports is about fun, passion, and playfully acquiring a mindset and meta-skills the kids may  be able to put to good use by contributing to society later in their lives. 

So let’s start with our number one advice to other parents: “Don’t listen to any other  advice, not even this one.” You and your kids know and feel best what you enjoy and  what works for you.



If the kids fail, we make no  big deal out of it. Part and  parcel of success. Debrief,  try again. They learn motor  skills 5 to 10 times faster, anyway. We only dis approve of giving up too early for no good reason. Sometimes a little push or encouragement is ok even  though we are very clear  that eventually the motivation and determination to overcome obstacles has  to come from within.


Besides learning from the  best, being around top  performers has had the  effect that the kids accept  that success at the highest  level is a real possibility and mainly a function of following through on their  passion. We believe that  what would limit the outlook  of the boys is not so much  what they are but what  they believe they are not.  So the more "normal" working towards top performance is, the more  likely it becomes part of  their world view and outlook.


We said to Max, ”If you  want to travel to race  events around the world  and rise to the top of your  sport, sitting in a normal  classroom during most of  the year probably won’t  get you there. Hence you  will have to work on an  alternative path and will  have to figure out how to  organise your own learning  efforts a little earlier that  most other boys. Other kids  will have to learn it by 18 or  20 years old. You will have  just to figure it out and find  the motivation for it in  yourself a few years earlier.  Exceptional performance requires exceptional  efforts.”

Inculcating independence 

Should we let a 12-year-old travel along to a training competition venue in Mexico for three weeks, without coach or parents?

We started by asking Max if he felt he could handle it. If he can't. he'd tell us.

Kids and Trust 

Where the approach of our family probably differs most from the mainstream is on the  topic of trust. Of trust in the abilities of the kids, of giving more space to let the kids live out  the consequences of self-motivated action or inaction from early on. We feel that if we  want to raise kids who trust in their own abilities, we want to trust in them first. 

It is the same with decisions. We spend the time to explain things in depth, tell them how  things are connected, so that they can have a go at informed decisions. We try to raise  decision makers, so we let them make their own decisions and roll with the  

consequences. They will soon develop a good sense of what works and what hurts. We  love them and seek to protect them from irreversible damage, of course. Still, if we let  them learn to cycle without auxiliary wheels, they will fall a few times but they will also very  quickly get better at it.  

Max travelled with us from young and observed our interactions with other people. He  knows how trustworthy people look and feel when we point out our considerations on  many occasions. Max knows who is going to such kiteboarding competitions, and he will  meet other competitors the moment he arrives. Sure enough, it has worked out just fine.  

Do we pack the kids’ sports equipment? What if without supervision, they forget some  piece of equipment when they pack their own bags? Well, we have let Max learn from his  mistakes. No doubt, it will cause some hassle, but it has made sure that he would go  through the checklist more diligently ever after.  

Success means try again 

To us, learning means being comfortable with not looking very competent for a good  while. For example, we learned the basics of kitefoiling together with Max and especially  the tacks and jibes, nimbly balancing on the hydrofoil board and moving the kite just right  when changing direction. It gave us ample opportunities to not look very competent for a  good while, and still come back with a smile. ☺ 

Creating a learning-friendly family culture to us means also having the courage to expose  ourselves and share about our challenges. So as parents, we try to lead by example:  Trying new approaches and going through multiple attempts until things come together.  As the kids got a little older, we also started to share more and more about the  challenges we are trying to overcome in our lives and our endeavours. We shared even  some issues that are worryingly difficult to resolve and how we keep throwing whatever  we can at it. Trying to be a good example for the boys actually provided us with some  extra determination in overcoming challenges and not giving up. 

When it all comes together finally, when after years of trying, we finally achieve a record  performance in our own passion or find a way in business matters, we express also how  good we feel about it and celebrate. Oh, and we try not be too perfect as parents – it  just stresses the kids, haha. 

Self-motivated learning 

We feel that intrinsic motivation and self-organised (academic) learning is a meta-skill that needs to be learnt and applied just like every other skill. Is it possible for kids to just switch  to self-motivated learning after they have been herded and shuttled from one structured  and supervised activity to another for most of their childhood? 

From what we gathered, even very smart kids recognise that they are unable to self-study  in the beginning and will express that they need assistance along their path. 

Our kids actually expressed that they do appreciate some guidance especially when it  comes to pointing out what is worth learning and how to go about it. But they also know  that every kid who goes on to study in a university will have to figure out how to develop  their own learning strategies at some point.

Some parents of young athletes are dedicating a lot of their time looking after every  aspect of their sporting careers. As much as we enjoy seeing the kids progress, play  alongside them and follow their races when we can, such a parent or coach approach  has not been for us, as we have simply too many other responsibilities in our lives. 

So something which worked well for us was that we approached mature athletes in the  late stage of their careers to impart their specific experience and skills, and take our boys  under their wings and train with them and race along with them. 

We were fortunate to have found a few exceptional people whom we felt good with and  could entrust our kids to at different stages of their athletic development. It started from a  gut feeling of liking the people and seeing how they live out their values and are able to  take responsibility and are more than their titles. The world champion may or may not be  the best mentor. 

On cramping their style  

Telling other people how they should lead their life seems to be one of the most popular  sports of all times. It comes naturally and needs little discipline or effort. And kids are the  perfect target for grown-ups who like to indulge in this pleasure. After all, few things so  need reform like other peoples’ habits, isn’t it? 

Well, we did not really enjoy having our parents cramping our style in our childhood. So  we figured with our own children, we would try to minimise the nagging and telling each  other what to do and let everyone have their space and develop their own style.  

As parents, we try instead to be good examples and gently suggest behaviour suitable to  get them ahead in life and have other people come their way. It seems to work so far. 

Maximillian Maeder, 13, is Singapore’s sole representative at the Games. He started kitefoiling at the age of 10, after he got bored of kitesurfing.