How do your own experiences impact your thoughts and feelings related to sports? How are your expectations, attitudes, and responses communicated to your child?
In a previous article, I wrote about the gains and losses inherent in the connection of parent-child relationships. Parents can’t be unemotional about their children. They are a part of us, there is a lot at stake, and that makes it very easy to over-respond to them. Our own kids may have big emotional reactions to us because they want our love and approval at a very basic level. If we over-respond to them, they are almost always going to over-respond to us making the way we interact with them so important. Very often, coaches and parents are even-keeled and positive with every kid on their sports team except their own! I have been guilty of over-responding when coaching my own son many times. After all, I played and coached college baseball, I know what I’m talking about. He belongs to me, and he should know better because of all that! Oh, sure, that’s exactly how it works. Wrong! All that was about me, not him. We can become blinded by our own emotional reaction to our children’s success making it more about us than our kids. This is hard stuff because ALL PARENTING is supposed to be about the child, but our own stuff gets in the way. So what do we do? It starts with knowing what our own stuff is.
In order to become fully aware of your own motivations regarding your kids in sports, you can explore the following questions. What was your experience? How was it positive or negative? Was it something just to pass the time, be with other kids, or was it a passion? Were you as successful as you wanted to be? How did sports connect you or disconnect you from your parents or others? In what ways are you reliving your success or failure through your child? What are your goals for your child in sports or activities as compared to his or hers? How do all of the above factors play into your approach to your child in sports? You don’t have to confess to the world all the answers, just be honest with yourself because deep down we all know the truth anyway. These things can be hard to face. It’s easy to see the extreme examples in other parents, but it’s very difficult to see and admit to the subtle dynamics at play within ourselves. That’s why it is so important to look at ourselves and evaluate what we are doing instead of just reacting.
PS: If your kid hates for you to show up at their games, you may want to examine your motivation for their participation.
Paul C Bakke, MS