Here’s Why a Sports Parenting Martyr Complex Doesn’t Work

Here’s Why a Sports Parenting Martyr Complex Doesn’t Work

Sports Parenting sometimes brings out the martyr in even the best of moms or dads. As a parent, do you ever play the martyr in your home?

I have to admit that I mastered the role pretty well, and sometimes I’m still tempted to fall back into using it. But the honest truth is, martyr tactics do not promote a healthy family dynamic.

Why do you play the martyr? Most of the time, parents resort to it because they hope to see a desired response from their kids.

I paid a lot of money for you to play on that team! (Said to motivate a child to work harder. Or perhaps to remind him that you have so graciously sacrificed and are such an awesome mom or dad, therefore he needs to appreciate you more!)

No, it’s okay, I’ll clean your uniform, accompanied by a huge SIGH–this will hopefully prompt your kids to jump in and say, Mom, I will wash my uniform and put it away.

But here’s the unfortunate truth about playing the martyr: sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Even when you think it’s working, it’s still not producing what you want. What you want is for your kids to offer to help on their own, or express gratitude for what you do; what you’re getting is kids that are being trained to perform every time you play the victim.

And when it doesn’t work, you get even more upset because your kids didn’t get the hint.

Playing the martyr as a parent is putting a band-aid on a broken arm. It only treats the surface and doesn’t deal with the heart of the matter. It’s simply not the best way to get your kids to respond and if you want to break the habit, keep these thoughts in mind:

  • People Can’t Read Your Mind. Say what you want out loudWishful thinking does not solve problems. Good communication involves speaking and listening. A simple conversation can clear up a big misunderstanding. Don’t assume, and don’t expect others to assume.
  • You might be making the problem worse. Ask yourself, “What am I doing that contributes to the problem?” and “What can I do to make the situation better?” For instance, if one of your kids is complaining about how hard practice is and you can only think of how much money you forked out so she could play on that team, you may be tempted to go on a rampage about how much you sacrificed so she could play, or you may want to throw more money at the problem in hopes of making her happy: would you like a new bat? Or how about a new glove?

Perhaps you expressed your frustration, but were ignored. Your responses enabled her to continue the behavior. Instead of  buying her happiness, or lecturing about your sacrifices, ask her why she hates practice. Tell her that hard work results in rewards, and that she can re-evaluate her decision to play on the team next year. In fact, you probably won’t pay for the opportunity because it appears to you she’s not enjoying it.

  • Remember to bite your tongue. I truly believe that if parents could bite their tongues more often, there would be less conflicts in the home. It takes practice and self-discipline to think about what you are going to say before you say it. But it helps to say it to yourself and ask what it sounds like. I’ve been working on this for years and still blow it. But I also have seen improvements in those moments when I think about my words and how they will be perceived. That thought process has kept me from many a conflict I’m sure. When you feel like giving your martyr speech, practice biting your tongue. Think through what you really want to communicate and talk about it in a way that communicates clearly and honestly.

Being a martyr does not make you a bad sports parent; it’s merely an ineffective way to motivate your kids or communicate your need for help. If you’ve given in to the martyr habit, it’s time to stop playing that role; start saying what you really need and teach your child real responsibility.


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