If only we parents were as successful as we demand our children to be, a dad recently remarked to us. At first glance, that sentiment seems reasonable, even admirable. Why wouldn’t we want our sons and daughters to excel, even surpass our accomplishments?
Some Parents Step Out of Bounds
It’s not so much the sentiment as it is the motivation behind it. That same dad remarked about the embarrassing scene that some parents make at their youngster’s soccer matches. Their children are involved in healthy activity and robust competition. The parents, on the other hand, are engaged in coaching and cajoling from the bleachers—screaming at the officials, berating their own son or daughter for letting the opponent steal the ball. The poor sportsmanship that some parents display is childish and shameful. What’s even worse is that some red-faced, loose-lipped parents are totally unaware of their behavior because they are so obsessed with winning. If only they could trade places with their kid. Wait … that’s exactly what they’re doing!
Winning Is All the Rage
It’s how you play the game. We’ve all heard that expression. More often than not it’s an expression that is mocked and ridiculed by those who believe that winning is everything. Vince Lombardi used to say that winning isn’t everything … it’s the only thing. Perhaps when it comes to the immense expectations and corresponding huge salaries of professional athletics, that message has some validity. But to beat that attitude into the heads of youngsters at an age when competitive play should be fun—to scream obscenities because of a youngster’s miscue or an official’s missed call—turns a joyful community activity into a public verbal lynching.
When Tom’s daughter showed real promise of going to New York and testing her vocal mettle on the stage, he got all excited. He encouraged her—no, he urged her—to go for it. He reminded her how good she was and how much potential others said she had. When she explored the possibilities and decided against it—even passing up a scholarship to a performing arts school—Tom felt let down. Dad’s ego was bruised because when he had the opportunity years back to “follow his dream” to the Big Apple, he didn’t pursue it. When he faced the truth, he realized that through his daughter’s opportunity he might, albeit indirectly, fulfill his own unrealized dream. Broadway! What an ego trip that could have been!
Sure moms and dads should encourage their kids. We want our sons and daughters to succeed. As the adults in this scenario, however, we should recognize when and why that encouragement starts to turn sour—when and why the yelling turns to anger. We’ve read about what can happen when rooting turns to rage.
When parents try to fill the voids in their own lives by jamming unrealistic expectations down the throats of their kids, it’s not pretty. And it can leave scars.