As a dad, I want to help and encourage my kids in all their endeavors. I want them to learn a healthy work ethic, to do what it takes to be good at what they do. But there is a line somewhere between encouraging them and pushing them. The line between having a good work ethic and being a kid. Sometimes I cross that line and push a bit much, probably because I’m not sure where that line is.
I often hear people say “you have to start them in (sports/dance/music, etc.) early if they are going to be successful at it.” I haven’t bought in to that way of thinking and do not agree with it. What five year old knows what he wants to do with the rest of his life?
There are many examples of professionals who didn’t start until Jr. High and a few even later. Does he like football, etc.? Maybe, but is it because he really likes it or because he likes the encouragement and attention he gets from mom and dad when he plays? Has he had the opportunity to explore other things? We sometimes forget that they are kids. It is amazing to me to watch parents in the stands at games or in the theater/studio at dance. Their kid is always the best and can do no wrong. And with some, when they do make a mistake, they are sure to let their kid know about it. I simply do not understand the attitude of parents in the stands and the poor behavior they are modeling for their kids. We seem to forget that they are kids. We seem to think that every six year old is going to be a professional athlete. I often think some of these parents are living the life they wish they had through their kids.
The reality is that very few of these kids will even play in high school and almost none of them will play professionally. According to the NCAA research, only 0.5% of high school baseball players will play professionally… and that is by far the highest of all the sports listed. Even if they do play professionally, the reality of that is they are generally done by age 30. In fact, research shows the average professional sports career is 3-5 years. The NFL Players Association puts the average NFL career at 3.5 years. What else do they like? What are they going to do then?
It is easy to want to push our kids to be the best. Our society is driven toward that. I’m proud of my kids and fall into that trap sometimes, too. But what I really need to do is let them be kids. Give them opportunities to explore and experience many things. It is easy to want to steer them toward what I want them to do, but if they are doing it for my attention, then they need to move on to something else and I need to re-evaluate how I interact with them. Not every kid is an athlete, musician, or dancer. Some may just want to work and be a good mom or dad. And that’s o.k. I know some well meaning parents that have not allowed their kids to follow their dream because it didn’t involve a college degree. I make it a point to tell my kids that I am proud of them in their endeavors. But I also tell them that even if they were the worst at what they did, if they were having fun, it was worth it and I still love them. I don’t love them because they are good at dance or swim or piano. I love them because they are my kid.
I don’t know where that line is. I’m sure I’ve crossed it many times. The line between a healthy work ethic and being good at what they do vs just being a kid, having fun and learning. As parents, our job is to encourage them, guide them, help them grow and experience opportunities. It is not our job make them the best. It is not our job to choose for them what they want to do. It is our job to help them live life every day.