3 ways sports parents turn their children into jerks

By Janis Meredith | Posted 12/17/2014

We’ve all seen young athletes with bad perspectives and an over-inflated sense of self-importance. In fact, your child might have some on his team. Hopefully, your child is not one of them. 

What makes children like that?

It’s safe to say that parents play a huge role in shaping their kids’ character. And there are some definite things parents do that can almost guarantee that their kids will end up jerks.

Mollycoddling them

Pamper. Spoil. Indulge. Overprotect.

Actually, I’m all for everyone getting a little spoiled now and then, but parents who consistently overdo this will end up with kids who feel entitled.

Mollycoddling sports parents fight their kids’ battles for them, give them everything they ask for and rarely make their child work for things. Mollycoddlers try to protect their athletes from all negative experiences by smoothing the path ahead instead of helping them learn their way through challenges. They encourage their athletes to blame others for their problems – coaches, other players, refs – instead of owning up to their mistakes.

Wearing rose-colored glasses when looking at your child’s athletic abilities

Many parents do not know they are wearing rose-tinted glasses. Quite honestly, there is a fine line between believing in your children and becoming unrealistic about their abilities. If you think your child is usually not in the wrong, if you think your child is the best player on the team and no one else agrees, if you think your child never has any attitude problems, newsflash: All kids have attitude problems at one time or another. It’s time for you to take off the glasses and see things as they really are.

I know it’s hard for parents to be objective about our kids. But at the very least, acknowledge your lack of objectivity. That in itself is a step in the right direction toward honest parenting.

Believing in your child is great, but when that belief causes you to become pushy about your child and his competitive play, when it covers up real mistakes and issues that your child needs to admit and learn from, then the glasses are firmly attached to your nose, and it’s time to peel them off.

Manipulating your child’s sports experience

While mollycoddlers try to make their athletes’ lives’ comfortable, parents who push, demand and overcontrol are trying to manipulate their children’s sports experiences to outcomes the parents desire.

They push their kids to practice more, work harder and be more aggressive, assuring that their children will start, make the team or get an acceptable amount of playing time. This can cause athlete burnout, and if the athlete sticks with it, he may develop an attitude where he is too hard on his teammates and too hard on himself simply because he is trying to live up to his parents’ demands.

Every now and then I meet an athlete with a good head on his shoulders whose parents are doing everything wrong in youth sports when it comes to mollycoddling, manipulating, and wearing blinders. Logic, experience and observation tell me that is rare. It is more likely that parents reap what they sow.

And if you sow these negative behaviors, you will end up nurturing a kid others may label as a “jerk.”

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach's wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has recently launched a podcasting series for sports parents. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.