Are you placing any of these unrealistic expectations on your athlete?

By Janis Meredith | Posted 6/15/2016

Parents expect things from their kids who play sports— things that the child may not be able to deliver. It’s a parent’s job to hope for the best, express belief in their kids and voice a positive outlook. However, that does not give parents the permission to burden young athletes with unrealistic expectations.

Are you communicating any of these unrealistic expectations in your home?

  • You must always work hard and give your best effort. Of course we say this to our kids. Of course we want it for them. But the reality is that they will not always be able to give 100%. They will be tired or discouraged or may just have a down day. And when this happens, give them some grace. Don’t always expect a stellar effort.
  • You must put in the extra work to get better. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If an athlete wants to excel, he or she must go above and beyond what is expected. But this is a conclusion your child must reach on his own, without you expecting it of him or her. Otherwise, it will just develop into pushy parent behavior.
  • You’ve got to keep up your grades, your chores, and your sports, without skipping a beat. Life is not getting easier for kids. School is getting harder and sports are getting more competitive. Sure, kids should learn to work hard and keep up with responsibilities, but there are times when you need to cut them a little slack. They are kids after all. They are still in a huge learning portion of life that will prepare them for adulthood.
  • Suck it up when it’s hard and quit complaining. Kids need to be challenged to perform above what they think they can do. But pushing them to work harder does not mean we ignore their legitimate hurts and frustrations. Perhaps you think your child is wimping out and it angers you to see that. However, telling him to “suck it up” is not going to build his muscles one bit.
  • I expect you to get over things quickly. Each of my three kids processed disappointments differently. One got over it quickly, one stewed for the rest of the night and one carried it for a day or two. Which one of those is your child? Once you’ve figured that out, give him or her the space needed to recover.
  • You’re such a great athlete, I expect you to keep playing and even play in college. Do you put that expectation upon your child as a definite plan of action and allow him or her little say in the matter? What if she wants to pursue music instead? What if he’d rather get a job and start saving money for college? What if your child doesn’t want to go to college at all?

We cannot assume a life path for our kids. Sometimes we must allow them to figure it out for themselves.

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach's wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. Her new booklet, “11 Habits for Healthy and Positive Sports Parents,”is available on Amazon. She has a podcasting series for sports parents. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.