When it comes to parents of sporty kids, the discussion can become fraught with ease. “Pushy” parents, who force their children to engage with sports against their will, are judged on a societal level, and are even the subject of troubling documentaries. If your children are involved in sport, then you’re probably determined to be incredibly careful to ensure you don’t cross the line and become one of the “pushy” parents.
At the same time, if your children are engaged with sports, then you also want to be encouraging. This means that you can find yourself walking a tricky line; you want to avoid being pushy, but you also want to show an appropriate level of enthusiasm for your child’s sporting pursuits. Is it possible to do both?
Reassuringly, the answer to this question is a definitive “yes”— provided you keep the below “dos” and “don’ts” in mind.
DO: Let your child choose the sport
One of the biggest “pushy parent” mistakes is dictating what sport your child should engage with. It’s far healthier, for both of you, if your child is the one to make the decision— after all, it’s going to be their time, their effort, and their body that is subjected to the sport. Whether they choose traditional sports such as soccer, or more esoteric options such as skateboarding, your role is to support and encourage them to make the most of their choice.
DON’T: Put pressure on results
If your child is serious about turning pro in their chosen sport, then there will be a time when results matter. However, when they are still young and still learning, results should not be the be-all and end-all. Instead, allow them to learn, hone, and perfect their technique rather than expecting them to win trophies— ultimately, the early lessons they establish will be far more important to their chances of long-term success.
DO: Encourage their dreams
Pushy parents are infamous for forcing their children to think big; to imagine playing at Wimbledon the second they pick up a tennis racket, or scoring the winning goal in the soccer World Cup final. However, if your children daydream of these moments for themselves — with no external guidance from you — then there’s no harm in encouraging that dream. If they have a goal in mind, this also provides a roadmap for what you, as a parent, need to do to help them achieve it. You can work with them to provide the appropriate support for them to meet their dream, be it via private tennis lessons or allowing them to attend a youth soccer academy to further hone their skills.
DON’T: Put sporting achievement above academic pursuits
Sports careers are, almost without exception, short. As a result, your child is still going to need a decent general education, even if they are a sporting prodigy. Sport is important, but a solid academic background is vital.
If you focus on the guidance above, you should find that you’re able to walk the line between “too encouraging” and “not encouraging enough” with perfect balance. Good luck!