By David Benzel
The Sport-Parent quiz on our web site provides you with a score for your most common reactions and behaviors to your child’s athletic performance. The higher your Hero score the easier it is to have a healthy, long-lasting, and loving relationship with your child, and the easier it will be for your child to perform well. Your score was derived from your answers to questions that reflect your behaviors regarding two variables: 1) How much emphasis you place on performance achievement (pressure applied); and 2) How much emphasis you place on character development (life-lessons taught). We believe sport mastery reached at the expense of self-mastery has only short-term benefits for athletes in our society, and can have disastrous long-term effects. There are many athletes in the world who win at sports and lose at life for this reason.
This article addresses the specific tendencies that keep you from a higher Hero score. It will provide you with practical suggestions for becoming a Hero-Parent to your child.
The Agent-Parent acts as though a child is a commodity to be developed and promoted. This parent tends to over-emphasize the destination (scholarship or pro contract) more than the journey. Therefore most performances get evaluated and compared to some standard that must be met to stay on track to reach a goal. Life lessons and the value of the experience are over-looked. A sub-par performance produces a mood swing for the Agent-Parent because he/she identifies with it personally.
Here are some suggestions:
Players often fire their Agents! Play the role of Hero to your child. No one ever fires their Hero.
The Manager-Parent has a lot in common with the Agent-Parent when it comes to applying performance pressure to their child in the hopes of making him/her better. The main difference is that the Manager focuses on progress, rather than outcome. This parent will manipulate every circumstance (coaches, schedules, equipment) to gain an advantage. On the surface, focusing on today’s progress sounds like a good thing, and it is better than dwelling on tomorrow’s scholarship. However, when technique and strategy takes precedence over life-lessons and character building, the wrong message is sent. Through their constant evaluating and analysis Managers communicate their joy about improvement and their disappointment about sub-par performances. Therefore children start to assume that love given is determined by performance delivered. The message received by the child is, “I’m only as good as I do.”
Here are some suggestions:
You can manage time, machinery, budgets, and deadlines, but people want to be led. You’ve never heard of a world manager, have you? Your child wants a leader, not manager. The sport and their performance belong to them, not you.
The Sponsor-Parent has the least in common with any of the other two styles. This parent tends not to be involved in a child’s sport experience, but sees it as something to pay for. Hearing about the results of a game afterwards is the norm. This happens due to a work schedule, or a lack of interest in participating in this aspect of a child’s life. Other responsibilities or other interests dominate this parent’s lifestyle and they find it difficult to move youth sports up the priority list.
While the Sponsor is not guilty of applying any performance pressure, their absence means they also miss opportunities to teach the life-lessons that expose themselves through sports. A child may easily get the impression that the Sponsor-Parent doesn’t care about their development. Unfortunately, the metaphors for living found in sports don’t get discussed.
Here are some suggestions:
The opinion that matters most to children is what they think you think of them. Giving your attention to them and caring about what they care about is an opportunity that disappears in a few short years. Take advantage of that window of opportunity.
The Hero-Parent purposefully avoids adding performance pressure to a child’s athletic world. While this parent is deeply interested in how his child performs, he’s more interested in how she lives and how she feels about herself – win or lose. For that reason more conversations are directed at the bigger life-lessons than at sport techniques and strategies. It’s not that sport issues are ignored. They are left primarily to the coach to fulfill. Sport specific conversations are still important for parents to have with their children, but they consist of more questions and discussion than lecture and directing.
After a game in which a child makes a costly error and feels embarrassed by it, the Hero-Parent is more likely to focus on “how to handle embarrassment” and “why we feel embarrassed in front of others”, than on the mechanics of the error. When a child is in a performance slump, the Hero-Parent will focus more attention on the emotional and mental aspects of rebuilding self-confidence, rather than on changing a technique. In short, a child’s overall swagger is more important than their swing in the grand scheme of things to the Hero-Parent.
Here are some of the behaviors found in Hero-Parents:
The evidence of the success of this approach is that Hero-Parents report that their children come to them often with questions, asking for input on key decisions, and seeking their wisdom on a variety of topics. Beyond the issues of improving a corner kick, jump shot, or curve ball, the children of Hero-Parents include them in discussions about school, romantic relationships, spirituality, careers, and marriage. Their relationships are built to last a lifetime.
David Benzel is the Founder of Growing Champions for Life.
Learn more at www.growingchampionsforlife.com.