I used to be a youth soccer coach. You hear the stories about parents who can’t leave their kids alone to have fun playing sports, but until you see a kid being berated by parents, or a volunteer referee being harassed from the sidelines by over-gregarious parents, they’re just stories.
I often wonder what the attitude is that makes parents act this way. Why do they put so much pressure on kids to excel at sports (or any other activity, for that matter)? Why can’t the kids’ simple enjoyment of an activity be the reward for a parent?
I have a theory about this, and it comes down to the parents living too vicariously through their kids’ pursuits because they don’t have pursuits of their own other than their work.
“But that’s just part of being an adult,” some would say. “You get older and you have to put all your time into your work just to get the best for your family.”
I think that’s an excuse for not paying attention to what is really important. And what is important?
Enjoying life. Paul Kyriazi, author of How to Live the James Bond Lifestyle: The Complete Seminar and one of my favorite mentors, defines prosperity as “enjoying your time.”
That’s it. It makes sense, doesn’t it?
So if enjoying your time is the true measure of prosperity, then shouldn’t we endeavor to take on some goals of our own and perhaps cut back on the need for stuff? That’s where I think obstacle racing or any other personal physical goal can come into play (I pick obstacle racing because of many other factors, of course, but the point here is to pick a goal in an activity that makes you happy).
So if more people take on their own personal goals, might they be less inclined to berate their children for “underperforming” in their own sports and activities? I think so. Having an outlet for that stuff other than the vicarious “pleasure” they get through their kids, and just being able to sit back and watch their kids enjoy themselves in a sporting event, is going to be a fantastic way to relax both parent and child. And perhaps a time will come when that kid will see the fun the adult is having in their activity and want to join them – and the bond between parent and child will become even closer.
Now granted, in such situations it’s going to be important to treat the activity as just fun – and the parent needs to treat it as such. If the child is asking for help, or seems to be struggling with something, then the parent might take that opportunity to show the child a better way or gently encourage them to try harder.
This article from the Spartan Race website about “7 Tips for Raising Spartan Kids” inspired me a lot. It put into perspective a lot of little things as a guideline for any activity with kids where goals and learning are involved. I highly recommend reading it and taking some advice on it.
And if you find yourself living vicariously through your kids, perhaps it’s time to ask why.
Do you have issues with vicarious living? How have you dealt with it? Do you think there are other aspects to parent misbehavior with youth sports? Let’s talk about it in the comments!