Don't Fall into the Trap: Are You Projecting Your Life onto Your Children?

By Janis Meredith | Posted 3/4/2020

Sit through any youth sports event and you are sure to hear a parent or two…or three who are obviously trying to live vicariously through their children. It happens in the classroom too. Parents become extremely hands-on with their kids’ work.

In both of these situations, parents are determined to make sure their children do well, even if means the parents do it for them. Why do Mom and Dad do this?

Author Tim Elmore in 12 Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid explains: Our children are ultimately a reflection on us. They represent our second chance to get it right. Through them, we may get to do our childhood over again…For hundreds of thousands of parents, this issue remains the number one problem in raising healthy kids. 

In essence, we are pressuring our kids to become something they are not because it is what WE want. 

Are you pushing your child to play sports because you did or because you wanted to?

Are you expecting your son or daughter to go into the family business even though they don’t have the passion or skill to do so?

Do you demand that your child get A’s and B’s because you had such a hard time in school? 

If so, you are projecting your own life onto your children and there are unhealthy, albeit, unintended consequences that come from doing that. 

•   It’s an unhealthy behavior for your kids to follow.

•   You are causing stress in them to be someone they are not.

•   It hurts your relationship with your kids.

Don’t Fall into the Performance Trap

All of this pressure on kids whose parents are trying to live vicariously through them results in parent and child living in a performance mindset.

There’s nothing wrong with working to help them make the team, get the job, make money, but if motives are not healthy, you and/or your child will fall into a performance mindset. Perhaps you felt that from your parents and now you are passing it on to your children. However, you can stop the cycle. 

Another sadly unintended consequence is that more kids today struggle with depression and anxiety than at any time in modern history…More than 80% of emotional disorders are induced by well-intentioned parents who project on their kids. By living vicariously through their kids, they send a negative message to their children. The children believe they haven’t measured up to their parents’ wishes.

Parents, here is how you can correct this mistake: Communicate that your love for your child has nothing to do with their performance and help them find what it is they really want to do, whatever their interests are.

Janis Meredith is a family life coach who wants to help all parents raise champions. You can find out more at


USA Football's new model for youth football is designed to make the game safer by reducing contact and by teaching the game based on an athlete's age, the skill they are learning and game type.