5 signs that you are vicariously living through your child

By Janis Meredith | Posted 6/8/2016

Living through your child is not necessarily a bad thing. As parents, we all live a little bit through our kids. We remember our positive and negative experiences, and we want to see our kids stay away from the bad ones while enjoying the good ones.

But when it comes to youth sports, the phrase, “living through your child,” can take on a whole new meaning. Sports parents who live vicariously through their kids tend to be overcontrolling and pushy, even when they don’t mean to be.

Often, parents fall into the trap of pushing a child to fulfill the dreams that they themselves never fulfilled. That trap can hurt the child, frustrate the parent, and lead to marital problems when couples disagree about those dreams.

What does living through your kids look like?

You’re the parent screaming at your child from the sidelines to: “Hit him harder” or “You can do better.” Yelling at your child may be a vent for you, but it will most likely sabotage your child’s performance.

You’re the mom or dad who is involved in every single thing that your child is involved in. Be involved in your kids’ lives but not too involved. Give them some space to spread their wings and fly a bit.

You’re the parent who has no life outside of your child’s sports. Find something you enjoy doing for yourself. It’s easy for your child’s sports schedule to squeeze out everything else. You may argue, “But I enjoy it,” but letting your entire life revolve around your kids sends the message that, well, the world does revolve around them.

You’re the parent who forces your child to play a sport even when he or she doesn’t really want to. Is your child playing only to please you? He may say he wants to play just because he knows that’s what you want. Look for signs that he is not passionate about his sport: Does he choose to play when he doesn’t have to? Does he dread practices and games? Does he not ever want to talk about the sport?

You’re more upset about wins, losses, playing time or position than your child is. Your child may be handling these situations quite well until you come along and start filling his head with ideas like: “Why doesn’t the coach play you where you want?” or “Why were you on the bench the whole fourth quarter?” If your child understands the “why” behind the “what,” he may be handling the whole thing better than you. Don’t mess that up.

If you see yourself doing any of this, it’s OK to admit it. Acknowledge that you have, and make steps to correct it. Remember that what’s best for your kids may not be the same as what was best for you.

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.