Parents, don't get mad at me! It's not your turn, and it's time to realize that your time has passed
In 5 Minutes or Less; The lessons we can learn from sports 12 post series
By: Dr. Lisa M. Coffey
Whew! That was a mouthful. Let us unpack that title.
Please don't shoot the messenger; I am simply the vessel through which this message is catapulted. As parents, we can be guilty of pigeonholing our offspring into roles/assignments without considering our children's emotions, needs, and feelings. We run with the idea if we see a glimpse of something in our kids that reminds us of ourselves. Guess what? I am guilty of running with the idea that my son had no interest in because the concept fit my definition of how I thought his life would unfold. The realization of the force behind my decision for his life caused me to pause and re-evaluate my role. I am here for guidance on his self-imposed goals, dreams, desires, and plans. So, I ask, are your living vicariously through your child(ren), and do you recognize the damage you can cause?
We see this type of influence, commonly, in indulged sports parents. So what is an indulged sports parent?
Parents who attend every practice, event, and meeting.
Parents who coach their kid(s) from the sidelines.
Parents who compare their athlete(s) to everyone else.
Parents who believe their kid(s) are superior.
Parents who lose composure at contests.
Parents who have a sense of entitlement, and are confrontational with officials, coaches, and administrators.
Parents whose conversations typically consist of the sporting events, practices, or circumstances associated with the contest.
Frequently, zealous parents can ruin a child's sporting experience because of the pressure to live up to the parent's prior sporting participation/records without allowing the child(ren) to reach their potential at their pace. When the parents' goals are mismatched with the athletes' goals, a breakdown in the relationship can occur. Parents must take a step back and allow their offspring to embrace the opportunities presented which will enable them to determine what athletics means without heavy parental influence. Every kid is their parents' star! But every kids not a star and will not make the Olympics or become a professional athlete.
The example I gave above about my son was not sports-related but aligned with this theme and allows me to use a personal model to convey my message. My middle son, Saffeon, is brilliant, gifted, and is one of the most intelligent people I know. Saffeon started school early and graduated early. I saw in Saffeon the potential to be well educated with advanced degrees. Admittedly, I was living vicariously through Saffeon because I had not attained my degrees at the time. If he, does it then I won't have to. I shoved college down his throat at the age of 17 when all he wanted was a year off from school. "No," was my response, "there is no time to waste, go now!" Guess what? He hated every class and quit after one year!
When parents overindulge in their offspring's successes, be it academic or athletic, the lines are blurred between the needs of the parent vs. the child's needs. The following can occur from blurred lines:
Parents begin to identify their self-worth by their child(ren)'s accomplishments or lack thereof.
Parents become obsessed and take on roles other than a parent (sideline coach, scheduler, and assumes too much responsibility).
The activity/event becomes more important to the parents than the participant.
The parents assume a "WE" identity.
WE can do better!
WE need to do this or that!
How can WE improve?
WE need to practice more!
Parents' happiness rests on the shoulder of the kid(s). When the kids achievements do not live up to the parent's expectations, the parents become unhappy and project negative feelings onto that relationship.
When athletics are involved, parents lose sight of reality, send the kids to costly camps, hunt for the best trainers, overtrain and overmatch the athletes to build skills. When overtraining and overmatching risks injury. The kids want to rest their tired bodies, yet they are pushed to capacity.
Burnout can occur on both ends.
Nevertheless, parents need to create a healthy balance in their relationships with their children. Follow these 5 guidelines:
Parents should be pushing their child(ren) without being pushy.
Parents should be motivating their child(ren) to achieve their goals and not the parents’ goals for their lives.
Parents have to stop hovering like a helicopter and give the child(ren) the space to be free, fail, and re-focus.
Parents must also face their past failures, mourn the losses, and create affirmations to move forward without projecting those feelings on the child.
To reconcile the disconnect with the child(red), the parent has to acknowledge their shortcomings, and acknowledge/apologize for the pain caused.
Writing this blog post has been therapeutic because I was once guilty of placing expectations on my son that did not align with his personal goals. Thankfully he and I had several conversations about my judgment call, and we have reconciled our difference. I no longer project my expectations onto my sons, and I have to give them the autonomy to navigate life, find their passions and fulfill their dreams at their pace. Just because I birthed them does not give me the right to control them.
Parenting has limits, and here are some questions to ask yourself. Are you controlling? Do you hover? Have you given your offspring the autonomy to live life their way?
Morrow-Kondos, D. (2021, April 28). Are you living vicariously through your child? Retrieved from Tulsa Kids: tulsakids.com/are-you-living-through-your-child/
Villines, Z. (2019, March 6). A Dream Deferred: Are you living vicariously through your child? Retrieved from Good Therapy: goodtherapy.org/blog/dream-deferred-are-you-living-vicariously-through-your-child-0306197
© 2021 Lisa M. Coffey