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The Effect of Parents Pushing Their Kids in Sports

by Kathryn Hatter, studioD

Kids often enjoy participating in organized athletics, including both individual and team sports. Parents may participate energetically in these sporting activities, also, cheering and encouraging their children’s performance. However, if parents push too forcibly, focusing on performance and demanding excellence, the effect could be negative and even harmful for a child.


When parents push a child too forcefully to excel in sports, injuries are a frequent result, warns clinical psychologist Stephanie Newman, writing for Psychology Today. Sporting participation at extreme levels might involve daily practice for hours, often pushing a child for stronger performance to reach higher levels. This level of effort can result in physical injuries that could even result in lifelong struggles. Scaling back participation in response to injuries might cause a child to lose ground, which parents might have trouble accepting.

Living Vicariously

Parents with unfulfilled sports dreams and ambitions may seek to achieve these goals through a child, states professor Brad Bushman, with the Ohio State University. Seeking to achieve dreams vicariously through a child diminishes the youngster and the importance of the child’s desires and dreams, prioritizing the parent’s goals over those of the child. A parent may push a child too strenuously, focusing only on the goals and not considering that the child may not have the same goals and desires that the parent has.

Listening to Children

Over-involvement with sports participation may lead to parents taking over control and ownership of the activity, cautions psychologist Jim Taylor, author of “Positive Pushing.” In this situation, parents can assume such a high degree of involvement that responsibility for and connection to the sport transfers from the child to the parent. It’s even possible that the child could lose the desire to participate in the sport, yet she continues to play in an effort to make the parent happy.

Skewed Social Identity

When a child receives strong parental encouragement and approval for sports performance, a shift may occur in the child's motivation, according to an article published in "Youth Fitness Magazine." The youngster may attach the approval to self-esteem and begin to believe that performance and achievement defines who he is and his overall worth. The child may attach so much importance to performance and ability that mistakes become severe blows to his self-worth and identity. Pleasing parents becomes the goal instead of enjoying the sport.

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.

Photo Credits

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