Expert Advice: Parent Pushing Daughter in Sports

Our expert advises parents to respect their daughter's wishes to "lay off her" in their efforts to make her a better athlete.
Pushing Teen to Play Sports
My 13-year-old daughter is very good at sports. She loves to play volleyball, softball, tennis, and basketball. She is good at all of them and I want her to be even better! She says I push her too much to practice and I need to lay off her because if I don't, she's not going to want to play. Should I let her do what she wants, or should I keep pushing her?
Please respect your daughter's wishes to "lay off her" in your efforts to make her a better athlete. She wants to enjoy playing sports. You shouldn't keep pushing her when you know that doing so might result in her quitting sports altogether.

Far too many parents pressure and push their athletic kids right out of playing sports. These kids decided it just wasn't worth all the anxiety, the constant demands to be the best, and the demeaning lectures when they didn't perform up to their parents' high expectations. Who can blame them? Unfortunately, these parents who were vicariously living through their kids' athletic achievements cheated them out of the fun, challenge, health benefits, and self-worth that sports can afford.

You need to ask yourself why your daughter's becoming an excellent athlete is so important to you. I would not be satisfied with the obvious, knee-jerk response that you just want to see her utilize all her athletic potential and be as good as she can be. We always need to ask ourselves why a particular issue in our children's lives result in our becoming so excited, worried, angry, or driven. Support your daughter's choices and work ethic in whatever sports that she plays. Kids often get the message that they are only loved and appreciated when they perform up to their parents' lofty expectations. I know that you don't want to send that message to your daughter. Let her play sports. Let her see how she wants to work being an athlete into her considerable challenge of being a teenager. Let her know that you support her regardless of her athletic achievements. Thanks for writing.

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

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