Sports parents, do you know what’s best for your athlete?
If you’d asked me that question when I was raising three young athletes, I would have adamantly said YES.
Of course I know what’s best for my children. I know them better than anyone; I understand their quirks, their weaknesses and their strengths. And because of that, I certainly know what they need and don’t need.
Now that I’m able to see things from a veteran mom perspective–my kids are 24, 27, and 30–I’ll admit that what I wanted for my children and was not always what was best for them.
No one should tell you how to be a parent to your children. Indeed, you probably do know them better than anyone. But sometimes that does not translate into actions that are actually best for them.
Here’s a few instances when you may not be doing what’s best for your young athlete:
When you want to fight for your child
When our kids are little, we absolutely should be their protectors and there are times as they grow when they still need our protection. But chances are pretty good, that youth sports is not one of those times.
Parental instinct tells you to fight for your children because you want them to be happy, to succeed, and to feel good about themselves. But fighting for your children is not always what’s best for them.
If your child is struggling and you are tempted to step in and go to battle for him, remind yourself that what’s actually best for him in that moment is to learn how to fight for himself. He needs your support, he needs someone to guide him through it, but he does not need you to do all the hard work.
What’s best for your child is for her to grow her own courage muscles and she can only do that if you stop doing her fighting for her.
When you insist she plays the sport YOU want
It may very well be that the sport you’ve chosen is better suited to your child’s skills and size, but if your young athlete does not want to play it, then she’s headed down a path that could result in burnout and quitting early.
This is a lesson that your child will have to learn the hard way. If she doesn’t like your suggestion and wants to play another sport–and you are thinking, no, you’re not made for that sport!–then it will be very hard to back off and let her try and perhaps fail.
We let our 3 kids choose the sports they wanted to play, even if they were not particularly skilled. They soon learned that they were better suited for another sport. But the attempts always gave them good experience and taught them some hard lessons along the way.
When you push them in an attempt to motivate
There are times when a little pushing, by way of encouraging and challenging, is good for your athlete. But when that push turns into an everyday and overdone habit, then pushing them is not what’s best.
There’s a couple reasons for this. One is that constant pushing can cause tension in the parent/child relationship. Another is that constant pushing is another way of nagging and the more parents nag, the less they are heard.
Give them a little push once, then let it go. You cannot force your child to be motivated; that’s something she has got to muster on her own.
When you are motivated by what YOU want
What I wanted when my kids played sports was for them to always be starters, always play a lot, and always get the recognition they deserved. I let those desires motivate some of my behavior until I learned that their journey was not about me and my wants.
I still struggle with this. What I want is for my three grown children to live close enough so that I can see them often. But I know that may not always be what’s best for them. I’m left with a choice: do I argue with them and try to convince them to stick around, or do I let them choose and learn to accept and support their choices? I’d like to think that what’s best for them is to stick close by, near family, but what if it’s not?
As your kids play sports, don’t let your wants and wishes determine what you deem is best for your kids. Let their passions and skills guide their choices and watch them blossom!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve observed parents who I knew were not doing what was best for their child. But it’s easy for bystanders like me to see things a biased parent can’t. Simply put, parents struggle with objectivity when it comes to their kids. It’s a natural response born out of love.
But if you can recognize that love sometimes takes on the form of doing what doesn’t feel best, but what actually is, then you are on the first step to being a parent that actually is doing what’s best.