10 Ways That Parents Can Prepare Young Athletes to “Adult”

By Janis Meredith | Posted 7/27/2020

It’s a sad fact that many sports parents today are sabotaging their child’s future without even knowing what they are doing or understanding the implications of some of their parenting habits.

There is no doubt in my mind that the majority of parents want to raise independent adults; I don’t know of any parents personally who want their kids to suffer from a failure to launch or to always be running back to Mom or Dad to get help.

So, if we all agree that we want our kids to learn how to adult well, where and when do you start? Preparing children for adulthood doesn’t just happen when they hit high school. Becoming an adult is not just an age one turns; it is a growth process that starts very early in life. One of the best places to begin the process is in youth sports.

As a sports parent, here are some ways you can help your child learn to adult well.

1. Let Your Child Learn to Speak for Themselves

Whether it’s ordering their food at a restaurant or confronting a coach, let your child do the talking. At first, they may need a little coaching, but they will get the hang of it if you stop yourself from taking over the conversation.

2. Let Your Child Do Their Own Chores and Homework

Surprisingly enough, this is not a no-brainer for a lot of parents. Rather than see their kids struggle, they will step in and do the chore or “help” their kids by doing their homework. This is especially tempting for parents of athletes who want their kids to have success in sports. They do everything within their power to make that happen, thinking that picking up their uniform after them and “helping” with homework is the answer.

3. Encourage Them to Work and Earn Money

Sports provides a great opportunity to learn about hard work. But don’t just leave it there. Look for other ways to let your kids work and earn money. Understanding the value of working and earning will help them appreciate the value of hard work and the dollar. Handing everything to your kids is an easy but dangerous habit that leads to entitled grown-ups.

4. Resist the Temptation to Micromanage

Give your child a job or instructions and then let them do it without you controlling how they do it. Nobody likes to work for a micromanaging boss. Give your kids room to carry out the task in their own way and exercise creativity.

5. Stay Out of Your Child’s Friendship Battles

When your child has conflicts with friends or teammates, stop yourself from stepping in to solve the issue for them. You can coach them through it If a conversation is needed with another parent, you and your child can go together and your child can do the talking.

6. Let Them Learn to Accept Responsibility for Mistakes

I know many adults who have a really hard time admitting that something was their fault, always looking for someone else to blame. It may be cute when a child does that at 3 or 4, but that kind of adult behavior is truly sad. I know people in their 60s, 70s and 80s who are still blaming everyone else for their problems. If your kids don’t learn this as they grow up, they too will be blamers as adults.

7. Allow Your Child to Take Risks

Let them try a new sport, learn a new skill or even embark on a new adventure without you– aside from dangerous endeavors, of course. With risk comes growth and it’s fun to watch where each risk will take your child.

8. Teach Them to Look for Positive

Unfortunately, I disguised my negativity as “being realistic” when my kids were growing up and I often got called out for being negative. The challenge has been to look for the positive and practice gratitude. Teaching them to look for the positive and to be grateful has got to be a mindset shift that starts with YOU.

9. Encourage the Practice of Not Procrastinating

Procrastinators usually end up doing a less quality job, putting more stress on themselves and driving everyone else crazy. Teach your kids to value the habit of timeliness and self-discipline when it comes to getting things done. Their future spouses and bosses will greatly appreciate it.

10. Teach the Value of Keeping Their Word

Don’t make promises to your kids you can’t keep and don’t break the ones you make. Tell your children to understand the importance of keeping promises as you live out that virtue.

If you want to raise your kids to become champions–adults who you enjoy being around–the process begins from the moment you first become a parent. It is an 18-year journey that will reap rewards if you do your part by being intentional about parenting.

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