If you’ve seen the movie Tangled with your kids, you know about the witchy Mother Gothel. She’s an overprotective, suffocating “mom” who did not let her daughter, Rapunzel, out of the tower for 17 years.
As I watched her control and manipulate–all in the name of “love”–I was reminded that sometimes sports parents do the same thing. Not to that extreme of course, but in subtle ways we try to control, and end up suffocating our kids–all in the name of love.
How can sports parents avoid being like Mother Gothel?
1. Let your kid learn to fight his own battles. Mother Gothel told Rapunzel that she was not strong enough to take care of herself in the real world. Mother Gothel was wrong. Rapunzel kicked butt.
As your kids begin to fight their own battles, you will see that in many circumstances they can take care of themselves if we just let them. Are they having trouble with a teammate or coach? Let them do the confronting. Are they frustrated with playing time? Let them figure out how to change the situation.
Of course, when they are young, they need your guidance as they learn to confront. But the more they fight, the more confident they will become and the better they will be able to fight for themselves.
2. Let your kid make mistakes, and fail. It is tempting for parents to bail kids out when they make mistakes. But that robs them of an opportunity to grow in their independence.
In a very deceptive way, Mother Gothel rescued Rapunzel from her troubles. The result: Rapunzel returned to her Mother’s arms, just where the witchy mom wanted her. Mother knew that if Rapunzel was allowed to learn from her mistake, she would grow in her independence, leaving Mother Gothel alone and un-needed.
3. Let your kid out of his safe “tower.” Let him go to a bigger school if he wants, where the sports competition is stiffer. Let him play on a team where he will have to fight for his spot instead of one where he will be the team star.
If your child wants to try out his wings, let him fly. I know there’s controversy about protecting your kids vs. not protecting and you as parents must find the balance.
But I also know that keeping your kids in a bubble will not prepare them for a healthy transition to adulthood.
4. Depend on something other than your children for strength. Mother Gothel relied on Rapunzel’s golden hair for her strength and youth. She kept her around because she needed her.
We all draw strength from loving and enjoying our kids. That’s just part of being a parent. But parents should not depend solely on their children for strength. Do you rely your kids to make you happy? That’s a heavy responsibility for a child to bear.
I get strength from my relationship with God. What else gives you meaning and purpose in life, other than your kids? I’ve seen many parents who act as if their child’s success as an athlete is their sole purpose for living. As sports parents, we must have a life that gives us fulfillment outside of our child’s sports.
Mother Gothel had serious issues. Of course she is a severe case and I doubt there are many parents that protect so extremely. But her distorted example can remind sports parents to de-tangle themselves and bravely let their athletes succeed on their own.