Family, Self

What This Year's Wimbledon Champions Teach Us About Parenting

Parenting Advice From Andy Murray & Marion Bartoli Of Wimbledon

Wimbledon — the iconic tennis tournament — finished the 2013 season in fine British form.

Hometown favorite, Andy Murray, won the men's singles division in a heart-stopping final match, making him the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years. His story is a great one for all athletes in that he persevered over a devastating loss in the finals of Wimbledon last year to beat the top-ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic this year. But his journey has some fine lessons for parents too. When being interviewed after his win, he simply said, "I learned from all of my defeats."

Parents, did you hear that? He suffered defeats, many of them, yet he continued on. His parents let him suffer defeat; they didn't micromanage his career so that he never had a loss. They stuck with him and let him learn from failing. Here's what his mother had to say about his losses: "He had chances in the final last year and let it get away. I think every time you have a really tough loss, a loss that really hurts you, you learn a lot from it about how to handle the occasions better going forward."

Maybe it's time for all of us to let our children fail and hurt. How many of you won't let your child get a bad grade or risk not making a travel team, or look silly when trying a new sport or let your child leave the house with an outfit that may not be so fashionable? When Murray lost in the Wimbledon finals last year, he didn't yell, "no fair" and neither did his family. Murray got to work, he figured out what he'd been doing wrong, he trained like a maniac and he worked on his state of mind so that he came to the court this year ready to do better. One of my clients just told me that she couldn't let her child fail a high school course because "it will ruin his whole life." I'm pretty sure that it will do no such thing and, in fact, it may be just what he needs to motivate him to do better next time.

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The other Wimbledon story is not quite as pleasant, but certainly carries some great parenting lessons with it. On the women's side of the court, 15th seeded French player, Marion Bartoli, won the final championship against Sabine Lisicki. Bartoli is on the older age of Wimbledon winners at the ripe old age of 28-years-old. She's known for some quirky moves on the court and apparently, less-than-sexy good looks for BBC announcer John Inverdale who (in disgustingly misogynist fashion) said on the air, "I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life, did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker." Inverdale proceeds to compare Bartoli to Sharapova (the apparently more attractive tennis player) and a few other ridiculous comments to round out his nonsense. 

Yet, Bartoli in true championship form and with wonderful confidence as well, responds back with this: "It doesn't matter honestly. I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No. I'm sorry. But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes."

And therein lies the parenting lesson: Bartoli was apparently raised to find her self-worth, value and confidence outside of her physical appearance. She wasn't devastated by the sexist comment of a silly commentator; she was proud and thrilled with an accomplishment that so few in the world will ever reach. 

As a parent, do you focus too heavily on your children’s appearance, particularly your daughter? Are you fussing over her messy hair, or slightly outrageous outfit, or even worse, her weight? I see it all the time when a girl walks in a room and her mother or father look at her with disdain and say, "fix your hair" or "that shirt looks horrible on you" or "that outfit makes you look chunky" and I watch the face of this wonderful young woman drop and her confidence with it. Bartoli, with her bold talent and endless drive, has little time to worry about what others think of her appearance and some of that credit probably goes to her parents. 

Helping your child to feel confident with their abilities, their strength, courage, drive, sense of humor, weaknesses and creativity are what will lead them to success in life. You could spend a lifetime of time and money trying to look a certain way and yet ultimately feel that you’ve come up short; or you can devote a lifetime to the pursuit of challenges, good company, experiences and learning and be a far better, happier human being in the long run.  Your children’s ability to take on challenges, criticism, difficult times and sadness will never depend on their physical appearance but will always be made better by the strength of their character. Bartoli, Murray, their families and many of the other Wimbledon contenders could surely attest to that. 

Lisa Kaplin is a life coach and psychologist at You can reach her at