5 Ways to Practice Letting Your Kids Go in Youth Sports

By Janis Meredith | Posted 9/30/2020

From day one, parents are programmed to nurture, care for and protect their kids. Hanging onto our kids is a very hard habit to break as they grow up, but youth sports gives us a perfect opportunity to practice letting them go. 

After raising three kids who played sports through college, these are the ways I learned to let them go. 

1.    Letting them learn to motivate themselves. As parents, we can encourage, gently push, and let our kids know we believe in them. However, we cannot provide the inner motivation it takes for them to push themselves to reach their potential. As much as we’d like to push them until their motivation kicks in, that approach rarely works.
2.    Letting them talk to the coach themselves.  When your child is frustrated or upset at the coach, parents may feel the need to handle the matter themselves. However, your child needs to learn how to have hard conversations without you running interference. You can coach them at home through what the conversation might look like, and you can even go with them as they have it. But let them do the talking.
3.    Letting them choose their own passion. I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve talked to that believe their kids should be playing a certain sport or even a certain musical instrument. The way the child acts can indicate that they are just not on the same page. Your job as a parent is not to mold your child into what you think they should be but to help them discover what they want to become.
4.    Letting them drive their sports career. Parents need to remember that it’s called “youth sports” because it’s about the kids. This is their thing, not yours. If they want to play in high school, let them push themselves. If they want to play in college, let them pursue that dream. 
5.    Letting them fight their own battles. In youth sports, there are all types of battles. Coaching conflicts, team issues, playing time frustrations—these are all battles that your child needs to learn to fight themselves. You are there to listen, love, and advise, not take over and fight for them.

Take it from a mom who’s struggled her whole parental life with the whole letting go process. I’ve learned that letting go is something we do not just for our kids, it’s also for us as parents. When we can learn to let go little by little as they grow up, we are more prepared to let them go when they are adults. Even though it will never be easy, it will be necessary if we want to have a healthy relationship with our adult kids someday. 

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