Along with many sports parents, I naturally assumed that I knew what was best for my children as they grew up. After all, I knew them better than anyone; I understood their quirks, their weaknesses and their strengths. And because of that, I certainly knew what they did and didn’t need.
Now that I’m able to see things from a veteran mom perspective – my kids are 24, 27, and 30 years old – I’ll admit what I wanted for my children was not always what was best for them.
No one should tell you how to be a parent to your children. Indeed, you probably do know them better than anyone. But sometimes that does not translate into actions that are actually best for them.
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Here are four instances when you may find it hard to be objective and actually do the thing that’s best for them in the long run.
1. When you want to fight for your child
When our kids are little, we absolutely should be their protectors and there are times as they grow when they still need our protection. But chances are pretty good that youth sports is not one of those times.
Parental instinct tells you to fight for your children because you want them to be happy, to succeed, and to feel good about themselves. But fighting for your children is not always what’s best for them.
If your children are struggling and you are tempted to step in and go to battle for them, remind yourself that what’s actually best for them in that moment is to learn how to fight for themselves. They need your support, they need someone to guide them through it, but they do not need you to do all the hard work.
What’s best for your children is for them to grow their own courage muscles and they can only do that if you stop doing their fighting for them.
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2. When you insist your child play the sport YOU want
It may very well be that the sport you’ve chosen is better suited to your child’s skills and size, but if your young athlete does not want to play it, then they’re headed down a path that could result in burnout and quitting early.
This is a lesson that your children will have to learn the hard way. If they don’t like your suggestion and want to play another sport — and you are thinking, no, you’re not made for that sport — then it will be very hard to back off and let them try and perhaps fail.
We let our three kids choose the sports they wanted to play, even if they were not particularly skilled. They soon learned they were better suited for another sport. But the attempts always gave them good experience and taught them some hard lessons along the way.
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3. When you push them in an attempt to motivate
There are times when a little pushing, by way of encouraging and challenging, is good for your athlete. But when that push turns into an everyday and overdone habit, then pushing could end up doing more harm than good.
There’s a couple reasons for this. One is that constant pushing can cause tension in the parent/child relationship. Another is that constant pushing is another way of nagging, and the more parents nag, the less they are heard.
Give them a little push once, then let it go. You cannot force your children to be motivated; that’s something they have to muster on their own.
4. When you are motivated by what YOU want
What I wanted when my kids played sports was for them to always be starters, always play a lot, and always get the recognition they deserved. I let those desires motivate some of my behavior until I learned their journey was not about me and my wants.
As your kids play sports, don’t let your wants and wishes determine what you deem is best for your kids. Let their passions and skills guide their choices and watch them blossom.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve observed parents who I knew were not doing what was best for their child. But it’s easy for bystanders like me to see things a biased parent can’t. Simply put, parents struggle with objectivity when it comes to their kids. It’s a natural response borne out of love.
But if you can recognize that love sometimes takes on the form of doing what doesn’t feel best, but what actually is, then you are on the first step to being a parent who actually is doing what’s best.