3 ways youth sports parents turn athletes into jerks
What makes kids like that?
I think it’s safe to say that parents play a huge role in shaping their kids’ character. And there are some definite things parents do that can almost guarantee that their kids will end up jerks.
Mollycoddle them. Pamper, spoil, indulge, overprotect. Actually, I’m all for everyone getting a little spoiled now and then, but parents who overdo this consistently will end up with kids who feel entitled. Mollycoddling sports parents fight their kids’ battles for them, give them everything they ask for and rarely make their child work for things. Mollycoddlers try to protect their athletes from all negative experiences by smoothing the path ahead, instead of helping them learn their way through challenges. They encourage their athletes to blame others for their problems–coaches, other players, refs–instead of owning up to their own mistakes.
Wear rose colored glasses when looking at your child’s athletic abilities. Many parents do not know they are wearing rose-tinted glasses. And quite honestly, there is a fine line between believing in your child and not being realistic about their abilities. If you think your child is usually not in the wrong, if you think your child is the best player on the team and no one else agrees, if you think your child never has any attitude problems–newsflash: ALL kids have attitude problems at one time or another–then it’s time for you to take off the glasses and see things as they really are.
I know it’s hard for us parents to be objective about our kids. But at the very least, acknowledge your lack of objectivity. That in itself is a step in the right direction towards honest parenting.
Believing in your child is great, but when that belief causes you to become pushy about your child and his competitive play, when it covers up real mistakes and issues that your child needs to admit and learn from, then the rose glasses are firmly attached to your nose and it’s time to peal them off.
Manipulate your child’s sports experience. Although this may appear to be mollycoddilng, it is actuality the opposite. While mollycoddlers try to make their athletes’ lives’ comfortable, parents who push and demand are control freaks trying to manipulate their child’s sports experience to an outcome the parent desires. They push their kids to practice extra, work harder, be more aggressive, trying to assure that their child will start, make the team, or get an acceptable amount of playing time. This can cause athlete burnout, but if the athlete sticks with it, he may act like a jerk by being too hard on his teammates while he is too hard on himself simply because he is trying to live up to his parent’s demands.
Every now and then I meet an athlete with a good head on his shoulders whose parents are doing everything wrong in youth sports when it comes to mollydodding, manipulating, and wearing blinders. However, logic, experience, and observation tell me that is rare; it is more likely instead that you as a parent will reap what you sow. And if you sow these negative behaviors, you will end up nurturing a kid others may label as a “jerk.”
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