By Natalie C.
Sport, in my opinion, is an important asset in raising happy, functional, well-balanced children, but the influence parents have on youth participation cannot be forgotten. Parents need to attempt to strike a balance between being over-involved and disinterested in their children because the negative effects of both can have lifelong consequences. When parents become over involved they undermine their children’s abilities and can in turn break their confidence. They cause their children to become stressed and raise their anxiety levels while affecting their self-esteem greatly. Parental expectations of accomplishments are usually unlikely and are sometimes set at unattainable heights (Left & Hoyle, 1995; Locke, Campbell, & Kavanagh, 2012). The pressure often becomes too much for children to handle and will usually result in the child dropping out of the program and being resistant to entering a new one.
On the other hand, if parents are disinterested in their children and pay little attention to their individual needs, a child may not even have the ability to partake in a sport or activity at all. They often lack the emotional support needed from home to pursue an activity and are more likely to drop out of activities they are already apart of. These children will need the attention and help of other influential adults in their lives such as teachers, leaders and/or coaches.
Parents must keep in mind of the developmental assets needed to foster positive youth development. Developmental assets can be defined as the positive relationships, opportunities, values and self-perceptions that youth need to succeed in their lives and two of these assets can easily be linked to this topic. They include, external assets “positive family support” and “positive family communication”. Positive family support is when the child feels a great deal of love and support within their household and feels connected with the members within. Positive family communication is when the child and their parents communicate in a positive way while the child feels comfortable seeking advice from their family members.
Parental support is defined as behaviors by parents perceived by their children as facilitating athletic participation and performance (Left & Hoyle, 1995). According to Left and Hoyle, research indicates that parental support among youth athletes is associated with greater enjoyment and performance within sport. Pay attention to what interests your child the most and let them choose what sport or activity they want to be involved in while being supportive of their choices. Catherine Holecko suggests 9 helpful tips of how parents can ensure they are supporting their children without hindering their involvement within sport. She highlights the importance of being involved as a healthy role model at home as well as the other parents involved in your child’s activities. She explains that parents should try to learn about the sport or activity so they can be engaged while spectating but can also help their children debrief afterwards. Being present and realistic with your children is often rewarding for their development within an activity as well and teaching your children how to win gracefully and how to handle disappointment. You can do this by modeling the behavior you expect from your children and by showing them you are proud of them no matter what the outcome. I have provided the link below outlining Catherine’s 9 tips.
Keep in mind that parenting is an unbelievably difficult job and with the overwhelming amount of stress and pressure in life today it is becoming more difficult to be the best parent possible for your children while still maintaining a healthy balance. Parents need to initially be confident in themselves and their abilities to instill this in their own children. Involvement in sport and recreation depends greatly on the support and attitudes of parents. I truly believe that proper education and practice can ensure children have a fulfilling experience while maintaining the positive benefits sport and recreation can offer.
Catherine Hokecko. How Youth Sports Parents Can Help Kids Thrive. In Parenting: Family Fitness. Retrieved October 31st, 2013, from http://familyfitness.about.com/od/kidssports/tp/How-Youth-Sports-Parents-Can-Help-Kids-Thrive.htm
Leff, S.S., & Hoyle, R. H. (1995). Young athletes’ perceptions of parental support and pressure. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 24, 187-203.
Firestone, L. (April 2nd, 2012). The Abuse of Overparenting. In Compassion Matters. Retrieved October 30th, 2013, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compassion-matters/201204/the-abuse-overparenting
Locke, J., Campbell, M. A., & Kavanagh, D. J. (2012) Can a parent do too much for their child? An examination by parenting professionals of the concept of overparenting. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 22(2), 249-265.